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New Oral History Interview: James H. Giffen (1941 – 2022)
December 13, 2022

We have added a new interview to our oral history collection. James H. Giffen was a U.S. businessman and expert on U.S.-Soviet trade. He was a founder and chairman of Mercator Corporation, which represented Kazakhstan in its negotiations with U.S. oil companies, and a close friend and counselor to Kazakhstan’s former president Nurlstan Nazarbayev. Giffen was the central figure in Kazakhgate, a multimillion-dollar bribery scandal, with legal proceedings brought against him by the U.S. government. After seven years, a judge dropped the case against him after deciding he had acted with CIA approval. In the transcript Giffen discusses his background; his entry into the field of U.S.-Soviet trade; the development of the Kazakh oil industry and the country’s trade with U.S. oil companies; the evolution of his relationship with Nazarbayev and other Kazakh authorities; the legal proceedings against him; his relationship with Gorbachev and Yeltsin; and his theories about the origins of Kazakhgate.

Read the interview. Read Justin Burke’s write-up about it in Eurasianet.