For years, one man colluded with corrupt customs officials to dominate the vast flow of Chinese imports — everything from t-shirts to high-end electronics — that sustain Central Asia.
He raked in massive profits. He built powerful secret alliances. His employee admitted to laundering hundreds of millions of dollars on his behalf. Then he was exposed, his top government patron pleading guilty to corruption and landing on a sanctions list.
You’d think the authorities would crack down. But you’d be wrong.
Today, Khabibula Abdukadyr and his family have transformed their shadowy fortune into a global empire. The same companies that were used to funnel laundered funds have become investors in expansive real estate developments, gleaming residential and office towers, mosques, markets, factories, and more.
This is the story of how a man accused of building a vast smuggling empire has turned himself and his brothers into big-time businessmen — as Central Asian governments welcomed their money with open arms.
This project is a collaboration between the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Ozodlik (Uzbekistan), Vlast (Kazakhstan), and Kloop (Kyrgyzstan).
Editing: Miranda Patrucic, Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, Julia Wallace, Drew Sullivan, Pete Baumgartner
Writing: Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, Miranda Patrucic
Coordination: Eldiyar Arykbaev
Reporting: Kelly Bloss, Martin Young, and nearly a dozen more reporters, including a number from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, worked on these stories. Most cannot be named to protect their safety.
Fact Checking: Olena LaFoy, Dima Stoianov, Sergiu Ipatii
Translation: Ilia Donskih, Alyona Korolyova
Design and Graphics: James O'Brien, Edin Pašović
Promotion: Charles Turner, Maria Semendyaeva, Samuel Brooke