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Uzbekistan|justice & crime|September 29, 2023 / 04:37 PM
Charges brought against Gulnara Karimova in Switzerland, Prosecutor General's Office demands to confiscate $480 million

AKIPRESS.COM - The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) on 28 September  filed  its indictment in the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) against Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the former President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, and the former general director of the Uzbek subsidiary of a Russian telecommunications company (the name or initials of the businessman are not given, but this position was held by Bekhzod Akhmedov).

The document contains a demand to confiscate 440 million francs ($480 million), obtained by the daughter of the first president of Uzbekistan through criminal means.

The two accused are in particular alleged to have participated in a criminal organisation that operated in various countries, including Switzerland. The charges cover the period from 2005 to 2013 and constitute participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering, acceptance of bribes as foreign public officials and forgery of documents.

According to the indictment, at least from 2001 until 2013, Gulnara Karimova developed and directed a hierarchical criminal organisation known as ‘The Office’, comprising several dozen persons and large number of companies. In Switzerland, this organisation allegedly began its operations in 2005, in particular in order to conceal the capital originating from its criminal dealings in Swiss bank accounts and safes and by purchasing real estate.

In view in particular of its size, its mode of organisation, its infrastructures, the scale of the assets that it held and the qualifications of certain of its members, "The Office" conducted its criminal activities as a professional business, complying with mandatory regulations and observing a strict allocation of tasks, while also resorting to violence and intimidation. The investigations revealed references to a hundred companies established and used in order to guarantee that the entire structure remained opaque. These companies held bank accounts in various jurisdictions, in particular Switzerland.

The organized crime group specialized in the telecommunications sector of the republic, which is very profitable. Foreign companies had to bribe the Office in order to enter the Uzbek market. Gulnara Karimova exploited her dual status as the daughter of the President and as an Uzbek public official, which allowed her to exercise "unlimited influence" over state officials.

Despite the fact that the beneficial owners of Karimova's bank accounts were "men of straw", investigators discovered that the businesswoman had assets worth 780 million francs as cash and real estate. Since 340 million have already been confiscated to return them to Uzbekistan, the Swiss Prosecutor General's Office demanded that the remaining funds be seized.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, part of the money is kept in the accounts of the second accused (the former general director of the Uzbek subsidiary of a Russian telecommunications company), who is a "key member" of "The Office". In particular, he is alleged to have been involved in devising and operating corrupt schemes in the Uzbek telecommunications sector.

Prosecutors also said that the former management of the private bank Lombard Odier & Cie SA is suspected of insufficient diligence in financial transactions and money laundering. But the investigation into this case is still ongoing.

Two criminal cases were opened against Karimova in Uzbekistan on charges of theft and tax evasion in 2013. She was sentenced to five years of restriction of freedom in the first case in 2015, and to 10 years of imprisonment in the second case in 2017, but then the sentence was replaced by a five-year restriction of freedom.

As part of the third criminal case, in which Karimova was accused of organizing a criminal organization, extortion and other crimes, she was given 13 years in prison in March 2020. The daughter of the first president of Uzbekistan is serving her sentence in a colony near Tashkent.

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