By RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 23.03.2015 14:35
A report by an investigative journalism organization says that Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, may have used bribery, extortion, and influence-peddling to acquire some $1 billion worth of shares and payments from telecommunications companies.
In a report published on March 23, the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) says documents it has obtained or viewed show “the scale of Karimova’s alleged corruption was far wider than has been reported.”
Once seen as a possible successor to her father, Karimova has been tied to ongoing money-laundering investigations in Sweden and Switzerland and is at the center of a financial-crimes probe in Uzbekistan in which many of her associates have been jailed.
She has been under house arrest in Uzbekistan for several months.
The OCCRP report claims Karimova demanded payments from companies in exchange for help obtaining licenses to operate in Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country.
It says that in 2001 she demanded a 20 percent stake in mobile service provider Uzdunrobita and made clear the company would be “destroyed” without her support.
Karimova went on to amass hundreds of millions of dollars through similar schemes, the report claims.
As for Uzdunrobita, Karimova acquired another 31 percent of the company’s shares that belonged to the state, the report says, quoting a former aide.
According to the aide, Karimova had acquired controlling shares of the multimillion-dollar company through “threats” and “without spending a penny.”
The report also says Karimova later sold most of the Uzdunrobita shares to the Russian-owned company MTS for more than $100 million.
“Payment records show that much like a blackmailer, she wouldn’t go away — coming back over and over again to bleed companies every time a new license was required,” the report claims.
Alisher Siddique from RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service spoke to the OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic about the allegations contained in the report:
Karimova’s telecom dealings first came into scrutiny in 2012 when Swedish media reported that Swedish-Finnish operator TeliaSonera and Russian-Norwegian company VimpelCom allegedly paid millions of dollars to Karimova who, in return, helped them to secure licenses to operate in Uzbekistan.
The OCCRP quotes Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler as saying a criminal indictment will be brought against one or more of the parties in the TeliaSonera case before the end of 2015.
The report says the money Karimova allegedly obtained in the telecom business is just the “tip of the iceberg” as it was only part of her business empire, which also involved airlines, cement, fashion, pharmaceutical, and other industries.