Tajikistan: Money by Marriage

Credit: Sulton Published: June 5, 2018

Since marrying one of the seven daughters of the president of Tajikistan, a young businessman has built an empire that stretches across the country. An OCCRP investigation show how unlimited political power leads to business success in one of Central Asia's poorest countries.

Tajikistan is the smallest country in Central Asia. And it is one of the region’s poorest, depending heavily on remittances from millions of laborers who work seasonally in Russia.

But its troubles aren’t just due to its difficult terrain or its Soviet past. Tajikistan is ruled by an authoritarian president who awards himself grand titles that literally place him above the constitution.

In such a country, family connections can mean everything. The stories below show how a young man who married into President Emomali Rahmon’s family became a leading businessman. They also reveal what happens to those who cross him.

Faroz, the company the young man built, has grown so big that it’s difficult to name an industry where it’s not present. With interests from oil and minerals to customs terminals and ski resorts, there’s hardly a market it doesn’t rule. It even manages to collect mysterious payments from foreign companies in exchange for valuable favors.

Read the stories below for an in-depth look at how a modern kleptocracy works.

Stories

Lust For Gold

Tajikistan is not an easy place to do business — but it’s possible if you’re willing to pay up. Here’s how a mining company listed in London paid a “success fee” to the son-in-law of the country’s president in exchange for permission to mine gold.

5 June 2018 Read the article

A Murder in Istanbul

The founder of Faroz, one of Tajikistan’s most successful companies, had no intention of feuding with the regime. But after the president’s son-in-law took the company from him, he decided to speak up. The consequences would be fatal.

5 June 2018 Read the article

When the Country is a Business

It sometimes seems like Tajikistan’s longtime president does little else aside from cutting red ribbons. He praises “patriotic businessmen” at the unveiling of project after project — but somehow neglects to mention that they all belong to his son-in-law.

5 June 2018 Read the article

The Death of Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance

Authoritarian, impoverished Tajikistan once boasted one of the most effective opposition parties among the former Soviet republics. Then, in just a matter of months, it was gone.

5 June 2018 Read the article

WHEN THE SOURCE VANISHES

Just over half a year after its original publication, a man interviewed by OCCRP reporters for this project was kidnapped in Moscow. His story — and a new investigation into the man he says betrayed him — are below.

The Man With Two Faces

Nikolai Nikolaev has portrayed himself as a friend of the Tajikistani opposition, a human rights activist, and a vocal critic of Russian government. So why do activists he befriends keep disappearing?

5 July 2019 Read the article

Kidnapping, Torture, and Freedom

Sharofiddin Gadoev was a successful businessman, then an opposition activist, then a refugee in hiding. This is the story of his kidnapping in Moscow, his torture at the hands of Tajikistani authorities, and his escape.

5 July 2019 Read the article

The Project Team

Coordinator: Miranda Patrucic

Reporters: Vlad Lavrov, Ilya Lozovsky, Olga Gein, Bermet Talant, Irene Velska, Katarina Sabados, Sinead Carolan, Eleanor Rose, Lejla Sarcevic, Lejla Camdzic, OCCRP Tajikistan

Editors: Miranda Patrucic, Ilya Lozovsky, Drew Sullivan, Maxim Edwards

Fact Checkers: Birgit Brauer, Sergiu Ipatii, Inna Kyvyrzhik, Bojana Pavlovic

Translation: Ilia Donskikh, Andrei Shigorets, Marina Denisyeva, Daria Suleiman

Promotion: Stella Roque, Ilia Donskih

Images: Edin Pasovic

Layout: Adem Kuric, Michal "Rysiek" Wozniak