Daughter of Former Uzbek President Indicted in Switzerland
Swiss prosecutors have on Thursday charged Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of late President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, with organized crime and money laundering in connection to funds acquired through criminal means and concealed in Swiss banks and real estate. Karimova is already serving a term in an Uzbek prison.
The unnamed former general director of a Russian telecommunication company’s Uzbek subsidiary was indicted at the same time.
According to the charges, from 2001 to 2013 Karimova was at the top of a criminal organization made up of dozens of people and numerous companies known as “The Office.” The organization allegedly started their operations in Switzerland in 2005 with the goal of hiding funds obtained through criminal means in Switzerland.
Swiss prosecutors originally launched an investigation into some of Karimova’s close associates in 2012 after reports of suspected money laundering. Karimova herself became a target by 2014 once she lost the diplomatic immunity she enjoyed thanks to her activities at the United Nations Office in Geneva. As a result of the investigation, four people were convicted between 2018 and 2021 for money laundering and forging documents.
“More than CHF 340 million was definitively confiscated with a view to being returned to Uzbekistan,” stated the Office of the Attorney General in a press release. “Currently, more than CHF 440 million in assets remains under seizure in the proceedings against Gulnara Karimova and the second accused.”
“In view in particular of its size, its mode of organization, 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 press release continues. “The investigations revealed references to a hundred companies established and used in order to guarantee that the entire structure remained opaque.”
Swiss prosecutors affirmed that foreign telecommunication companies that wanted to enter the Uzbek market made deals with Karimova, who used “her dual status as the daughter of the President and as an Uzbek public official… to exercise unlimited influence over state officials when it came to allowing companies to enter and operate in the telecommunications sector.”
The Office of the Attorney General alleges that hundreds of millions of dollars in corrupt funds were transferred through a labyrinth of companies and banks around the world before arriving at accounts held by Karimova’s proxies in Switzerland.
OCCRP has focused several previous investigations on Karimova’s corrupt business practices and money laundering activities.
It was confirmed that the Russian-Norwegian telecommunications company VimpelCom profited from the same kind of corruption. VimpelCom admitted in February 2016 to bribing Karimova, and consequently agreed to pay US$ 795 million to U.S. and Dutch authorities.
Nordic telecommunications firm Telia Company also admitted to paying bribes to Karimova and agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Dutch and Swedish regulators US$ 965 million to resolve the allegations.
Gulnara Karimova was detained in her country in 2015 along with many of her close associates. In a series of trials she was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison for money laundering and receiving bribes.
Karimova’s father, Islam Karimov, died in 2016, having held office as the president of independent Uzbekistan and the leader of its predecessor state, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, since 1989. The international community repeatedly criticized his government for its restriction of press freedoms and human rights abuses.