BISHKEK -- In a self-styled "anti-corruption cafe" in Bishkek, a barista dusts cinnamon over a stencil, leaving a familiar portrait staring out from the latte foam.
Ex-deputy customs chief Rayimbek Matraimov's likeness is everywhere in the Communa cafe -- on coffee cups, on wall posters, even looming over customers in the toilet.
Matraimov is at the centre of smuggling and bribery claims that have brought hundreds onto the streets, many angered by the murder of the main whistle-blower in the case in Istanbul.
Some are hailing the movement, called UMUT 2020 and based at Communa, as a hopeful sign in a country with a history of rowdy opposition-led protests but only sporadic civic engagement.
This "is a new direction in our political culture", Azamat Akeneev, an economic analyst and enthusiastic Twitter user, told AFP at an evening of political poetry at the Communa cafe earlier this month.
"We want to pressure the government to take real measures [against corruption]," he said -- a point reinforced by demonstrators holding up football-style yellow cards during a November 25 rally where Matraimov's image featured prominently.
Many are accustomed to corruption in Kyrgyzstan. Two Kyrgyz presidents have been overthrown -- in 2005 and 2010 -- following protest movements driven in part by anger over graft and nepotism.
But a recently released investigation by three media outlets into contraband, money-laundering and customs corruption schemes in the landlocked republic has convinced many that the system that drove those uprisings remains unchanged.
Matraimov -- derided as "Rayim Million" by his detractors -- is accused of having been involved in wide-scale bribery and smuggling at the customs office and taking part in schemes that saw hundreds of millions of dollars spirited out of the country.
He denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
The Customs Service has also denied that smuggling exists in its ranks and noted that Matraimov no longer holds a position there.
Matraimov has twice been called in by Kyrgyzstan's national security service for questioning triggered by the investigation carried out by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz service, local outlet Kloop.kg and the US-based Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
He has said he is suing one of the Kyrgyz journalists who investigated his family, as well as Shirin Aitmatova, a former lawmaker who founded the UMUT 2020 movement and the Communa coffee bar.
The media investigation would likely not have generated such an upswell of indignation were it not for the murder of its main whistle-blower in Istanbul on November 10.
Aierken Saimaiti, a Chinese national of Uighur heritage, had provided documents to journalists showing he funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country in order to benefit a Uighur business clan engaged in contraband.
He also claimed to facilitate bribes for Matraimov and other officials.
Saimaiti fled Kyrgyzstan in 2017 and told journalists he feared for his life, having already survived one assassination attempt in the Central Asian country.
He was gunned down in central Istanbul just two weeks before the probe was published. Turkish police said they have arrested four people in connection with the shooting.
While activists have applauded Matraimov's questioning, many are sceptical that it will lead to the powerful figure's arrest or trigger real reform.
Many who attended the poetry evening at Communa also raised alarm over the detention on incitement charges of a popular blogger the day before the November 25 rally.
The accusations against the blogger, Aftandil Zhorobekov, were a pretext to punish him "for his controversial posts about government figures", said Human Rights Watch.
He has since been released but is under house arrest.
State television has downplayed the protest and raised doubts over the investigation, while lawmakers have defended Matraimov in parliament.
Some in the government are trying to "whitewash" the image of Matraimov -- who is reportedly connected to members of the country's political elite, said Aitmatova, the UMUT 2020 and Communa coffee founder.
But she is adamant that Matraimov is a super-charged "bagman" of the type that has operated behind the scenes in Kyrgyz politics for years alongside organised crime and other vested interests.
Until these interests are uprooted, "Kyrgyzstan will not have a future," she told AFP.