When Michael Eggleton arrived in Kazakhstan in 2009 after three banks defaulted on about US$20 billion in debt, he thought something drastic had to be done. So the former Merrill Lynch & Co and Credit Suisse banker, who had been appointed chief executive officer of Astana-based Eurasian Bank, flew a polygraph machine into the Central Asian country to bolster client trust. The bank, Kazakhstan's tenth largest, was losing money, and Eggleton's predecessor, Zhomart Yertayev, had been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement in connection with US$1.1 billion in losses at Alliance Bank, which he led from 2002 to 2007. Yertayev, who denied wrongdoing, was convicted in 2011. "We had just come through one of the biggest economic crises in the world, and I had just arrived in a new country," Eggleton, 44, said in an interview in Astana in July. "There was no confidence in the banks. I was trying to address concerns of the market, and internally I saw it was going to be a war collecting money back from people." Kazakhstan, with about 3 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves and 1 per cent of its gas, ranks 133rd out of 176 nations on Transparency International's 2012 corruption perceptions index, behind Uganda and Nicaragua. Graft is pervasive in banking, with every seventh borrower saying they paid a bribe to secure a loan, according to a poll conducted last year by Sange Research Centre in Astana. Eurasian Bank's owners, Alexander Machkevitch, Alijan Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev, also control London-based mining company Eurasian Natural Resources. The ferrochrome, iron ore and aluminium producer is under investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office for alleged bribery in Kazakhstan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The firm said this month it would "co-operate fully" with the probe. The polygraph - a laptop computer with wires and sensors that connect to a subject's hands, arms and chest - has led to a drop in theft, including kickbacks for lending, Eggleton said, declining to provide figures. The bank was the third-least corrupt among 24 commercial lenders in the February 2012 Sange poll, which asked 500 Kazakh businessmen and mortgage borrowers whether bank employees had sought payments to facilitate credit. Eggleton started using the polygraph on a routine basis in January 2010. While the test was voluntary, employees who declined to take it were not eligible for bonuses or promotions, he said. "I have a problem with someone who has failed the test or who won't take it and is making decisions worth millions and millions of [US] dollars," said the banker, who submits to a polygraph exam once a year. "If they are not taking it, that's fine and I won't be penalising them, but I won't be making them chairman of a credit committee." More than 600 people left Eurasian Bank the first year the lie detector was in use, reducing the number of employees at the corporate and retail lender to 2,010, the company said. The workforce is now more than 5,700. BTA Bank, Kazakhstan's biggest lender before it was taken over by sovereign-wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna four years ago, has sued former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov, claiming he embezzled more than US$5 billion using fake loans, backdated documents and offshore companies. Ablyazov, arrested in France last month, has denied accusations of theft and money laundering. Banks, including BTA, Alliance Bank and Temirbank, restructured about US$20 billion in debt after defaulting in 2009. Nurbek Ayazbayev, Eurasian Bank's deputy chief executive, said he was "shocked, thinking they don't trust me" when first asked by e-mail to submit to a polygraph. He said he changed his mind after learning that Eggleton had taken the test, and he answered questions for 30 minutes in a dark room about whether he had received any kickbacks for providing banking services or loans. The polygraph is a useful tool for improving discipline, Ayazbayev said, because "you know that one day big brother will come and find out who you are".