British businessman from Oxus shot in Kyrgyzstan

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The Independent Online

A British businessman, who has been leading negotiations for the mining group Oxus Gold in its high-profile dispute with the Kyrgyzstan government, has been shot.

Sean Daley was gunned down as he left his home in the capital, Bishkek, in the early hours of yesterday. It is understood that he had been called out to a meeting. He is in intensive care in hospital.

Oxus is in a bitter legal wrangle with the government of Kyrgyzstan over ownership of the Jerooy gold mine in the country. The issue drew in Tony Blair earlier this year, who wrote to the President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, on behalf of Oxus. The letter received an angry rebuke from Mr Bakiyev.

The Kyrgyz republic has withdrawn the mining licence that Oxus held for the Jerooy gold deposit, saying the company had not fulfilled obligations to develop the mine. In recent weeks, the Kyrgyz government announced it was in talks to hand over the scheme to a previously unknown company called Global Gold, an Austrian business ultimately owned by two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Oxus has taken the issue to the courts in Kyrgyzstan.

Mr Daley is a long-term resident of Kyrgyzstan, where he was heading talks with the Government on behalf of Oxus. He runs a marketing and legal services firm called EDI in Bishkek.

Several people ambushed him, according to Aida Bakirova, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry. She said Mr Daley was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and had surgery, but remained in a serious condition.

His bodyguard told police that he had heard three shots. A police operation has been launched to find the attackers, Ms Bakirova said. The shooting was carried out by "unknown persons", she added.

Mr Daley's mother-in-law, Elena Bayalinova, claimed the attack was linked to Mr Daley's professional work. She said he had received anonymous threats, and that he had hired bodyguards three weeks ago.

A spokesman for Oxus said: "Mr Daley knows the Kyrgyz republic and its people very well. He has developed good relationships with government officials and is a well-respected member of the business community in Bishkek."

Earlier this week, Oxus won a local court ruling that restrained the Kyrgyz government from pursuing discussions with Global Gold.

Tony Blair had suggested in his letter to the President that Kyrgyzstan was not living up to its obligations under his global anti-corruption initiative and that the Jerooy affair meant "there is a real danger of damage to Kyrgyzstan's reputation in the international financial markets".

Oxus was close to finishing construction of Jerooy when the Kyrgyz government stepped in. The company's main remaining asset is a gold mine in Uzbekistan that is in production.