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November 03, 2010

US Awards Kyrgyzstan Contract to Company Probed by Congress

The U.S. Defense Department has awarded the Mina Corporation a $315 million jet fuel contract at a key U.S. air force base in Kyrgyzstan, after a congressional investigation stalled the deal.

The Pentagon renewed Mina's contract Wednesday, giving it the right to supply fuel to the Manas Air Base, a key logistical hub for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

U.S. defense officials say Kyrgyzstan's interim leaders prompted an investigation lasting six months after alleginging corruption within the company.

The government said that former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's family profited unfairly from Mina's and affiliate Red Star Enterprises' fuel contracts with the United States, which they have held since 2002. Mr. Bakiyev was ousted as president in April.

U.S. congressional officials say they found no evidence of corruption within the deal, but did uncover a "fundamental lack of transparency" in the Pentagon's contracting process and Mina's operations.

The Washington Post newspaper reports that the Mina Corporation's ownership is unknown. The newspaper says an American man who formerly owned a restaurant in Kyrgzstan's capital Bishkek controls the company.  The businessman, Douglas Edelman, is reportedly living in London and could not be reached for an interview.

The Pentagon says it gave Mina the deal in August 2009, citing "national security reasons" as the reason for making the company the sole fuel provider.