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WikiLeaks: Kazakh elite enjoy drinking, dining, music of Elton John

By Tim Lister, CNN
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev owns a palace and 40 horses, says a cable released by WikiLeaks.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev owns a palace and 40 horses, says a cable released by WikiLeaks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dispatch from U.S. Embassy tells of free-flowing liquor, visits from stars
  • Kazakh president owns luxury homes in United Arab Emirates, Turkey
  • Cable derides dinner hosted by one of nation's wealthiest men

(CNN) -- "Kazakhstan's political elites appear to enjoy typical hobbies -- such as travel, horseback riding and skiing. Not surprisingly, however, they are able to indulge their hobbies on a grand scale."

So begins a cable from a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, written in 2008. What follows is an eye-opening tale of lavish living, including Elton John's performance at a birthday party for a seven-figure sum, a palace in the Emirates and prodigious drinking.

Coming on the day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Kazakhstan for a conference, the timing of the leak could not have been more poignant.

The cable begins with a visit by U.S. diplomats to President Nursultan Nazarbaev's horse farm, which has "a large stable, indoor and outdoor riding arenas and a clubhouse" as well as about 40 horses from various parts of the world.

"Nazarbaev is also fond of traveling to warmer climes," the cable continues, mentioning that he had traded local property for a "palace" in the United Arab Emirates. Quoting Turkish officials, the cable adds that the Kazakh president also had a mansion in Turkey.

Other Kazakh officials also come under the spotlight, with a detailed account of Prime Minister Karim Masimov's visit to a nightclub called Chocolat in the capital, Astana. Apparently, the prime minister was quite the dancer: "His companions quickly tired but Masimov remained, dancing alone and animatedly for another 15-20 minutes."

Later, the cable describes a dinner held for a visiting U.S. delegation by one of Kazakhstan's wealthiest men, Aleksandr Maskevich.

"It is not clear what Maskevich is spending his billions on," the cable continues, "but it is certainly not culinary talent."

The menu featured boiled meat and noodles, and "the wait staff appeared to be graduates of a Soviet cafeteria trading academy."

In a section entitled "Private Concerts With The Stars," the cable describes the 2007 birthday celebrations of the president's son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev. Not only were Russia's biggest pop stars on hand, "The headliner was Elton John, to whom he reportedly paid 1 million pounds ($1.55 million) for this one-time appearance."

CNN has reached out to John's representatives for comment.

In the same year, singer Nelly Furtado was reportedly flown in to perform for Nazarbaev's daughter.

It seems that being posted to Kazakhstan was rarely dull, as far as characters are concerned.

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The leaked cable ends with a florid description of then Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov, who "appears to enjoy loosening up in the tried and true 'homo-sovieticus' style -- i.e. drinking oneself into a stupor."

It recounts a meeting between the minister and a senior U.S. Defense Department official in June 2007. "Slouching in his chair and slurring all kinds of Russian participles, Akhmetov explained to this very senior guest that he had just been at a cadet graduation reception, 'toasting Kazakhstan's newly-commissioned officers.' "

Spotting the opportunity for a zinger, the cable's author observes: "Who was toasted more -- the Defense Minister or the cadets -- is a matter of pure speculation."

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