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Newsline: Uzbek Diplomats Break Silence On Swiss Money-Laundering Case

Uzbek diplomatic officials have offered rare commentary on a Swiss money-laundering case involving four Uzbek nationals with ties to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the Uzbek president. Responding in writing to a request for information from the Swiss newspaper “Le Temps,” the Uzbek Embassy for Switzerland, which is based in Berlin, gave few details about the case but offered speculation about the whereabouts of a missing businessman involved in the investigation. In the letter, embassy officials accuse the businessman, Bekhzod Akhmedov, of massive fraud and suggest his Russian-based partners have helped him evade arrest. Akhmedov, in addition to being involved in the Swiss investigation, is at the heart of an ongoing dispute between Uzbek authorities and the Russian mobile-phone operator MTS. Akhmedov, who served as the head of MTS’s Uzbek subsidiary, fled Uzbekistan this summer amid a dispute in which Uzbek officials revoked MTS’s license and demanded nearly $1 billion in back taxes after leveling charges of financial wrongdoing. MTS has accused Uzbek authorities of making false allegations in order to strip the company of its assets. Akhmedov’s whereabouts are unknown. An Interpol warrant has been issued for his arrest at the request of the Uzbek government. The Swiss investigation raised questions about possible financial connections between the four Uzbek nationals and the presidential daughter, whose personal fortune is estimated at $500 million. The paper also quoted unnamed members of Geneva’s diplomatic community as saying the case was unlikely to implicate Karimova, who as Uzbekistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva enjoys diplomatic immunity. Karimova, 40, is frequently mentioned as a likely successor to her father, Islam Karimov, who is considered the architect of one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia.


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