Corruption Cash Frozen in Switzerland to Fund Development in Uzbekistan

Switzerland will send US$131 million of corruption money confiscated from the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president back to her home country, where it will be distributed by the United Nations to fund development projects.

Gulnara Karimova EFSwitzerland will send Gulnara Karimova's ill gotten money back to Uzbekistan, to fund development projects. (Photo: Nader Daoud, World Economic Forum, Flickr, License)More money may be added to the U.N. trust fund as the criminal case continues against Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the former Uzbek President Islam Karimov, according to an agreement signed on Tuesday by Switzerland and Uzbekistan.

“The fund will allow the returned assets to be used for the benefit of the population of Uzbekistan," said Swiss President Ignazio Cassis in a statement.

The $131 million, confiscated in 2019, is only a portion of the total amount Swiss authorities have frozen in relation to the complex criminal investigation into allegations of corruption against the jet-setting socialite.

Switzerland’s attorney general froze 800 million Swiss francs ($839 million) worth of Karimova’s assets in 2012.

The move came after officials at Lombard Odier, a private banking group, grew suspicious that multiple unauthorized withdrawal attempts worth hundreds of millions of Swiss francs were made from a Karimova-linked bank account. The country’s anti-money laundering office was alerted, and prosecutors launched an investigation into Karimova.

A 2015 OCCRP investigation found that a portion of Karimova’s ill-gotten cash came from $1 billion worth of payments and shares she’d collected as bribes from Scandinavian and Russian telecom companies, in exchange for allowing them to operate in Uzbekistan.

Karimova has denied any wrongdoing.

Karimova was once seen as a successor to her father, whose rule began in 1989 when Uzbekistan was a Soviet republic, and continued after the country’s independence and until his death in 2016. But the two had a falling out and she was placed under house arrest in 2014.

Karimova has spent the intervening years under detention as a corruption case against her wound through the Uzbek courts. In March 2020, she was convicted on charges including embezzlement and money laundering, and sentenced to 13 years in prison minus time served starting from August 2015.

Just months before the verdict, she had written a letter to her father's successor, Shavkat Mirziyoev, offering to return $686 million to the country's treasury in exchange for the case’s dismissal.