Gulnara Karimova attends a party marking the birthday of De Grisogono jewellery house founder and president Fawaz Gruosi at the Billionaire Club in Sardinia, Italy, in August 2012.
September 09, 2014
Gulnara Karimova once had it all. High-flying pop singer. Globe-trotting fashionista. A diplomat whose postings put her on the fast track to succeed her all-powerful presidential father, Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov.
But Karimova’s star began to dim in recent years amid criticism of her lavish lifestyle abroad, her failure as a UN ambassador to speak out on human rights abuses at home, and persistent allegations of corruption.
Her star appeared to officially fall on September 8 when a woman identified as “Karimova G.” was named by the Uzbek Prosecutor-General’s Office as a suspect in a graft case. The assumption is that it can be no other than the 42-year-old Karimova, who is believed to be under house arrest in Tashkent.
Here is a look at some of her lowlights in recent years:
Karimova’s fashion line, Guli, has its New York’s Fashion Week show cancelled after the organizer said it was “horrified by the “human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.” The runway show is then moved to a chic downtown restaurant, Cipriani, where about two dozen people assemble to protest the use of child labor during Uzbek cotton harvests. About 200 people show up for the show, but Karimova reportedly stays away.
Karimova releases a pop album to a worldwide audience. Her website (now offline) touts a “stellar review” of the album from “Billboard” magazine and a “great interview with CNN,” but neither link works and there is no record of either the review or the interview. In January 2013, she records a single in Russian with French actor-turned-Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu.
Her name suddenly disappears from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry’s official list of ambassadors, indicating that she has been removed from her post as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, a post she had held since September 2008. She is officially out of her position in July.
Documents leaked to Swedish investigative journalists and reviewed by RFE/RL appear to offer fresh evidence of a link between Karimova and Swedish telecom giant TeliaSonera.
Several Karimova-controlled television and radio channels abruptly stop broadcasting. Officials say that the reason is basic maintenance.
Terra Group, a media holding company associated with Karimova, has its bank accounts frozen because of allegations of financial wrongdoing.
Karimova, an avid user of Twitter, for the first time addresses alleged rights abuses in Uzbekistan. She posts a series of tweets that suggest one of her bodyguards had been arrested and subsequently beaten by members of the country’s security services. Her Twitter account is disabled later that month, but appears again in December when she uses it to attack her sister. Her once-prolific social-media presence goes fully dark in February.
Karimova’s apartment in Tashkent is searched, and her boyfriend, Rustam Madumarov, and two other associates are detained. The three are accused by investigators of being part of a criminal case linked to tax evasion and illegal possession of hard currency.
RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service and the BBC obtain copies of a handwritten letter believed to be from Karimova saying that she was under house arrest and had been beaten and subjected to “severe psychological pressure.” The same month, Karimova is named as a suspect in a bribery case involving the Swedish telecoms company TeliaSonera.
The BBC obtains recordings of Karimova complaining about her treatment under house arrest. She says that she and her daughter are being treated “worse than dogs” and that they have no contact with the outside world.
— Luke Johnson