Weeks before ethnic clashes killed hundreds of people in this Central Asian republic, an audio recording was posted on YouTube that presaged the mayhem. "We need to find 500 bdsand keep [the country] in a constant mess," said a voice that government officials here say was that of Maksim Bakiyev, the 32-year-old son of the ousted president. "Somebody needs to kick up a fuss." The recording of the phone call sparked fresh intrigue. From exile in Minsk, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev denied any connection to the unrest in Kyrgyzstan; the head of Kyrgyzstan's new interim government says it shows the former regime is seeking to return to power. The younger Mr. Bakiyev was detained in the U.K. Monday on charges by Kyrgyz authorities that include abuse of office and misuse of state funds. Whether the allegations prove true or not, the recent developments shine an uncomfortable spotlight on the close relations that the U.S. cultivated with the Bakiyevs before they were ousted in April. The new leaders in Bishkek say the U.S. government, keen to maintain a crucial military base here used to funnel troops and supplies into nearby Afghanistan, pursued a dangerous policy of ignoring the regime's abuses right up to the moment it collapsed after a popular revolt. Kyrgyzstan's new leaders charge that America's relationship with the Bakiyevs before they fled provided a patina of respectability to a brutal, corrupt government through high-level contacts and dubious fuel deals. Now, both the U.S. and Kyrgyz citizens are feeling the blowback. Roza Otunbayeva, head of Kyrgyzstan's new interim government, says the YouTube recording is authentic, and that the former regime "provoked and orchestrated" the ethnic violence that has left an estimated hundreds dead and sent tens of thousands fleeing into neighboring Uzbekistan. The career of Maksim Bakiyev was watched closely in Kyrgyzstan, because nepotism among leaders has been a problem in the past. During the five-year reign of his father, the younger Mr. Bakiyev's financial interests grew from a modest import business of cash-and-carry goods into an empire spanning banking, oil and telecommunications, said Edil Baisalov, until recently the chief of staff for Ms. Otunbayeva. Mr. Baisalov said U.S. business ties with Maksim Bakiyev were part of a larger pattern of the U.S. turning its back on human rights in the region, dialing back its criticism of authoritarian regimes so it could win their support for the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. government responded with a "stunning silence" in the last year of the Bakiyev government's existence, as officials rigged elections, and shut down websites and newspapers as opposition figures were killed or arrested, he said. "We were shocked, dismayed by the silence and we felt betrayed." A White House official denied the administration had been putting U.S. human-rights principles aside, noting that during the Kyrgyz crisis, the administration issued repeated statements calling for a return to the rule of law. "I'd definitely dismiss the general notion that we're easing up on discussing human rights for these other strategic reasons," said the White House official. But current and former U.S. officials privately agree that Washington over-invested politically in the Bakiyev government as it tried to retain the U.S. military base there. Kyrgyz prosecutors want to try Maksim Bakiyev for abuse of office, misuse of government funds and money laundering, a prosecutor's spokesman said Tuesday. While details of the charges are sketchy, one involves the younger Mr. Bakiyev's relationship with Asia Universal Bank, a Kyrgyz bank that was advised by U.S. consultants APCO Worldwide and Kroll Associates and whose board members included three former U.S. senators. Prosecutors allege that the younger Mr. Bakiyev steered to AUB part of a $300 million Russian state loan to Kyrgyzstan, and personally benefitted from it, the spokesman said. Critics of the Kyrgyz government were suspicious of Maksim Bakiyev's relationship with AUB, which under his father's rule grew from a little-known bank to the country's most influential financial institution. AUB shuffled a large amount of money out of the country when the government collapsed. On the night of the coup, April 7, officials at AUB approved international wire transfers that they say were requested by AUB clients totalling about $170 million, or more than 10% of the country's banking assets, according to central bank officials. Kyrgyzstan's new leaders say they suspect a chunk of that money was the plundered wealth of President Bakiyev and his inner circle. They have asked for the U.S. to help recover those funds. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek said the U.S. is "looking into" the request. The Kyrgyz government has now nationalized AUB and is dividing it into two banks because of what the government calls an illegal acquisition. The new government has also accused the U.S. of enriching Maksim Bakiyev through fuel supply deals. It says a fuel-supply contractor, Mina Corp., a privately-owned company based in Gibraltar, had lucrative U.S. government contracts to supply fuel to the U.S. base. The government says Mina, which is operated by a former U.S. military attach, used smaller delivery companies, that were allegedly controlled by Maksim Bakiyev, and funneled as much as $70 million a year to them. The Kyrgyz government has produced no evidence of the alleged payoffs, saying the case is under investigation. Mina denies the accusation, and its operations manager, Chuck Squires, says he never even met the president's son. But hostility in the new government towards the U.S. fuel dealings have led to supply disruptions at the base. Kyrgyzstan's acting president, Ms. Otunbayeva, said Kyrgyzstan will abolish an exemption on jet-fuel taxes that made the business especially profitable under Mr. Bakiyev. In an interview, Ms. Otunbayeva said she wants no more "corrupt schemes." In Washington, the finger-pointing prompted the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to launch an investigation in April into allegations that Pentagon fuel contracts to supply fuel to the Manas Air Base "substantially enriched family members of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev." Whether true or not, the "perception of corrupt" deals between the U.S. and the Bakiyev family has already undermined U.S. interests in the region, and may have helped topple the Kyrgyz government, said Scott Horton, a New York-based professor of international law at the American University in Bishkek who testified at one of the Congressional hearings. U.S. financial advisors around AUB and Maksim have decamped from Kyrgyzstan. One of AUB's former board members and minority shareholders, U.S. citizen Eugene Gourevitch, is a fugitive from Kyrgyz fraud charges filed by the interim government. Contacted by email, Mr. Gourevitch denied any wrongdoing, saying that his recent work in Kyrgyzstan was "based entirely on perhaps my overly idealistic beliefs and aspirations" for development of Kyrgyzstan. AUB's former chairman and chief shareholder, Mikhail Nadel, now in London, says he won't be returning anytime soon to Kyrgyzstan, whose new leaders he accused of "banditry" and who he said were now plundering his bank. Mr. Nadel confirms there was a surge in transfers at the time of the government collapse, but they were only clients rescuing their funds from a coup. Kyrgyzstan's central bank officials, who remain in place after the coup, said they were shocked when they learned about the bank transfers that occurred as the government toppled April 7. The government had tried the previous day to quell protests by arresting opposition leaders, but then released them when the strength of demonstrations took the government by surprise. After failing to disperse crowds in Bishkek with tear gas and concussion grenades, snipers on the roof of the palace began shooting protesters, armed and unarmed. More than 80 people were killed that day, most with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The transfers accelerated that night, ushered through AUB's offices, according to AUB and current government officials. The central bank's deputy governor Suerkul Abdybaly-Tegin, who also served under President Bakiyev, said he learned about the drop in assets the following day, and faxed letters to bank regulators abroad to stanch the outflow. But "we were too late," he said. It could take months to find out to whom the money went precisely, officials say. Funds went to companies with bank accounts in Europe and British Virgin Islands, but it's not clear who many of them represent, said Temir Sariyev, finance minister for the interim government. Mr. Nadel said in an interview that he was friends with Maksim Bakiyev, but denied that the younger Mr. Bakiyev ever had any control over the bank. He said AUB grew rapidly because he and its advisors had built it in the past few years into the country's premier financial institution. The one-time head of Kyrgyzstan's central bank, Ulan Sarbanov, tells a different story. He said AUB managers consulted regularly with the younger Mr. Bakiyev about the banking business. While head of the central bank, Mr. Sarbanov said he was suspicious of AUB's activities, because it maintained an office in Western Samoa and, he said, "could produce different balance sheets on the same day." He refused to allow it to take deposits from Kyrgyz citizens. In 2005 the Central Bank of Russia launched an investigation of AUB, and later issued a statement reviewed by the Wall Street Journal saying it suspected the bank of "suspicious operations" to help companies evade taxes. Mr. Sarbanov said that when he tried to help the Russian bank investigate, he was forced out of his job by President Bakiyev. After Mr. Sarbanov's departure, AUB went into the retail banking business. Mr. Nadel, AUB's chairman, says this had nothing to do with any favors from the government, and that AUB had spent "several years" working to obtain the retail banking license and the Russian Central Bank investigation proved nothing against AUB. The following year, the bank hired APCO Worldwide and Kroll as advisors. Kroll published a report in early 2007 saying the bank had a "solid foundation" to enact controls against money laundering. Former U.S. Senators Bob Dole (R., Kan.) and J. Bennett Johnston (D., La.) joined its board. Earlier this year, Mr. Dole resigned and his seat was filled by former Democratic Sen. Donald W. Riegle, Jr. from Michigan. In April 2007, Mr. Dole and Mr. Johnston visited Bishkek on AUB's invitation. Mr. Dole also visited the U.S. air base, and had an audience with President Bakiyev. Mr. Dole declined to comment for this article. Mr. Johnston denied ever meeting with Mr. Bakiyev "or any of his family or anyone who spoke for him." APCO said its staff and independent board members worked with AUB to improve governance and compliance procedures at the bank. Kroll said it advised AUB on helping the bank install anti-money laundering mechanisms, and raise the bank's overall standards. Mr. Riegle said he agreed with the APCO statement. Western diplomats said they got visits from a Kroll representative, who gave them briefings on AUB's anti-money-laundering efforts and due diligence on its shareholders. But outside the bank was a worsening business climate in Bishkek. A number of businessmen complained publicly that Maksim Bakiyev used tax police and prosecutors to seize their businesses, whose cash flows they say were then diverted to AUB. Several prominent critics of the government were killed, jailed, or died under suspicious circumstances. In October, the elder Mr. Bakiyev, who had just won another term as president, appointed his son the country's effective economic czar, as head of Kyrgyzstan's Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovation. U.S. officials said Maksim Bakiyev's official status made it necessary to invite him to Washington in April, where he was to be a featured speaker at the Kyrgyz Opportunities Forum, hosted by the Commerce Department. The top State Department official for Central Asia, William O. Blake, was also to appear. But events in Kyrgyzstan forced an abrupt cancellation of the gala event. After the government toppled, the State Department dispatched Mr. Blake to Kyrgyzstan to make amends with the new government. Kyrgyz officials said Mr. Squires, of Mina Corp., was also making the rounds to government offices, to explain his company's fuel business and deny allegations that his company has connections to Maksim Bakiyev. Ms. Otunbayeva, the interim president, declined repeated invitations to meet with him.(wsj)