Uzbekistan: Prosecutors Questioned Late Uzbek President’s Daughter Gulnara Karimova over Corruption Allegations

Published: 16 January 2017

Gulnara World Economic ForumGulnara Karimova at the World Economic Forum in 2009 (Photo: Nader Daoud CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Chris Benevento

Swiss and Uzbek prosecutors questioned the eldest daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov regarding accusations of corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars, her lawyer told Swiss media on Sunday.

The report about the interrogation in Tashkent marks the first time anyone connected with the corruption case has been permitted to meet with the 44-year-old Gulnara Karimova in the almost three years since her arrest.

The former diplomat, singer and fashion designer has been under house arrest since February 2014, following a 2012 investigation by SVT in cooperation with OCCRP into a bribery scandal involving major telco TeliaSonera (now Telia Company). The investigation revealed that the Swedish company paid more than US$ 320 million in bribes to Karimova for operating contracts in Uzbekistan.

Reporting by OCCRP in 2015 revealed how the daughter of the late president received more than US$ 1 billion in bribes from at least six foreign telcos.

Swiss authorities suspect that a large portion of Karimova’s alleged bribery proceeds is located in Switzerland. The Swiss Attorney General’s Office has frozen Swiss bank accounts worth over 800 million Swiss francs (US$ 790 million) suspected to be connected to the case, spokeswoman Linda von Burg told OCCRP on Monday in an email.

Her Swiss lawyer Gregoire Mangeat told Neue Zurcher Zeitung that Karimova was combative and declined to comment on the bribery allegations during the two-day long interrogation at her home on Dec. 9 and 10, 2016.

Although he was present, Mangeat said he was not allowed to ask any questions. Uzbek prosecutors asked several times for him to be removed.

He said the whole affair was choreographed and referred to it as a "puppet show" as Karimova appeared to have been instructed what to say in front of the Swiss prosecutors.

Prior to the episode, interrogators had rehearsed the questioning with her five times in November, sometimes using force, Mangeat claimed.

Uzbek authorities remain silent about the interrogation, but von Burg confirmed to OCCRP that a Swiss delegation had been to Uzbekistan. She declined to comment further.

While Karimova seemed to be in good health, Mangeat said he plans to raise the issue of her treatment at the hands of the Uzbek authorities as a violation of international human rights law.

Karimova is being held in a small annex of her former house. He said the rest of the house was falling apart and his client had no communication with the outside world, aside from sporadic, heavily-monitored contact with her daughter.