The money Gulnara Karimova squeezed from telecom companies ended up
in hedge funds, banks and opulent real estate.
In late June 2012, a young Armenian women accompanied by two men entered
the Geneva office of Lombard Odier, one of the largest private banks in
Switzerland. She wanted to withdraw some of the couple of hundred
million Swiss francs deposited into an account opened in early 2009 in
the name of the Gibraltar-based Takilant. While on paper she owned
Takilant, she was not authorized to access the account and so was
She never came back. But others tried several times to get at the money.
Bank officials became suspicious and called the Swiss anti-money
laundering office. The bank discovered that Bekhzod Akhmedov, the man
who had opened the account for Takilant, was on Interpol’s Wanted List,
accused of fraud in Uzbekistan. Soon after, Swiss prosecutors launched
an investigation and froze a series of accounts containing US$ 650
million. The accounts were connected to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter
of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. Akhmedov was once described as
the chief executive of Gulnara Karimova’s investment group, who since
fled Uzbekistan though no one knows where.
The young woman who had tried first to get into the Lombard Odier
account was Gayane Avakyan, a close associate of the first daughter. The
two men with her were employees and directors of her companies.
Gulnara Karimova owns a luxurious apartment in this Paris building which
is home to many celebrities. It is considered a true jewel of Art Deco
Where the money deposited in Switzerland came from has not been
disclosed to the public, but financial documents obtained by the
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) show that at
least some might have come from the more than US$ 1 billion worth of
payments and ownership shares that Karimova squeezed out of
international telecom-related companies. Among the companies that paid
her lavishly were Scandinavian and Russian telecom companies
TeliaSonera, VimpelCom and MTS.
The records also show that Lombard Odier is not the only bank in which
Karimova moved her money. She also used Parex and Aizkraukles banks in
Latvia, and the Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong.
Her audacious schemes cost the people of Uzbekistan money that might
have paid for pensions or healthcare, but instead went into banks, an
offshore hedge fund and her luxurious palaces around the world.
The OCCRP Records show that in November 2007, just days after receiving
payments from VimpelCom and the Merkony Investment Group, Takilant wired
US$ 38 million to an account in Citibank London. The account belonged
to PFPC International, a subsidiary of PFPC Worldwide Inc, which acts as
a transfer agency and funds administrator for offshore and alternative
investments. Takilant invested in a fund called First Global Investment.
PFPC was later bought by The Bank of New York Mellon.
It is not clear whether Karimova still has money invested in that fund.
With money from VimpelCom and Merkony she also bought a property in
Uzbekistan from the State Property Committee.
While banking records are not open, land records OCCRP has obtained
indicate that around the same time Karimova was moving money into Hong
Kong and Switzerland, she was buying properties in Hong Kong and France.
In Feb. 2009, Karimova, through a proxy, purchased a penthouse on the
80th floor of the “The Arch” in Hong Kong for US$ 14 million. Later
that year she secured a luxurious apartment in Paris and a villa near
the exclusive French resort of St. Tropez for an undisclosed amount. In
2011, her boyfriend Rustam Madumarov bought a castle in Ile-de-France,
near Paris for US$ 36 million. The apartment and villa in France has
been seized by French authorities in September 2014.