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Swiss indict daughter of late Uzbek leader in corruption case

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president, was
indicted in Switzerland in a vast case of corruption.

Karimova is accused of having created and run a vast criminal organisation known as 'The Office'
Karimova is accused of having created and run a vast criminal organisation known as 'The Office' - Copyright AFP Stefani Reynolds
Karimova is accused of having created and run a vast criminal organisation known as 'The Office' - Copyright AFP Stefani Reynolds

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president, was on Thursday indicted in Switzerland in a vast case of corruption, fraud and organised crime, prosecutors said.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) announced in a statement that following a lengthy criminal investigation, it had filed an indictment against Karimova along with an Uzbek telecoms executive.

“The two accused are in particular alleged to have participated in a criminal organisation that operated in various countries, including Switzerland,” the statement said.

The charges covered the period from 2005 to 2013 and revolved around “participation in a criminal organisation”, money laundering”, “acceptance of bribes as foreign public officials”, and “forgery of documents”. The indictment was filed in Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court.

The OAG maintains that Karimova, daughter of the late Islam Karimov, had from 2001 to 2013 created and run a criminal organisation known as “The Office”, comprising several dozen people and a large number of companies.

The organisation began its operations in Switzerland in 2005 “to conceal the capital originating from its criminal dealings in Swiss bank accounts and safes and by purchasing real estate”, the statement said.

– ‘Men of straw’ –

Karimova, who is already serving a 13-year sentence in Uzbekistan for embezzlement, raked in large bribes from foreign companies wanting to access the booming Uzbek telecommunications sector, the indictment added.

The bribes were paid via companies in “The Office” to get her to wield her broad influence in favour of their market access, the OAG’s investigation found.

“The corrupt funds … were then moved in complex operations to various bank accounts, through several countries and different companies, before being transferred in particular to bank accounts in Switzerland”, it said.

Those accounts were opened in the name of companies within “The Office”. The supposed beneficiaries were in fact “men of straw”, put there to conceal that Karimova was the real recipient, the indictment added.

Investigations conducted in Switzerland have so far led to the seizure of assets totalling the equivalent of 780 million Swiss francs (806 million euros), comprising bank assets and real estate, as well as cash and valuables deposited in bank safes, said the OAG.

On filing its indictment the OAG requested the confiscation of another 440 million francs-worth of assets, it added.

While prosecutors say Karimova was in overall charge of “The Office”, they also indicted the head of the Uzbek branch of a Russian telecommunications company. This suspect, whose name was not given, was accused of being a “key member” of the criminal organisation.

The OAG first opened an investigation in 2012 into Karimova’s personal assistant over money laundering suspicions.

Karimova herself was initially protected by diplomatic immunity, since she was serving as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, but after that immunity lifted in 2013, the investigation expanded to focus on her.

AFP
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