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Uzbek gas exports 'controlled through Swiss firm'

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15:11 CET+01:00

The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm that handled 80 percent of the country's gas exports, US diplomatic cables showed Thursday.

According to the newspaper Le Temps, which obtained the cables from WikiLeaks, the documents showed that Gulnara Karimova was the effective boss of Zeromax, a Swiss-based energy firm which was declared bankrupt in August 2010.

According to a 2007 cable quoted by the Swiss paper, Zeromax "siphons off 80 percent of natural gas exports" of Uzbekistan.

"Through Zeromax, Gulnara Karimova controlled tightly the hydrocarbon sector of the third biggest gas producer of the ex-USSR," it added.

The 38-year-old daughter of Uzbekistan's veteran President Islam Karimov is a "key intermediary for all contracts," according to the cable.

Another cable dated 2010 said that Zeromax was one of the "main Swiss recipients of funds from Uzbekistan". This contributes to making Switzerland the second biggest trading parter of the central Asian state, said Le Temps.

According to the newspaper, US diplomats estimated the annual business of the company at $3 billion, which corresponds to 10 percent of the country's annual output.

Karimova has been living since 2008 in the chic Geneva suburb of Cologny, after she was named Uzbekistan's representative to the United Nations.  

According to the cables, the appointment was regarded by some observers as a way to tighten control over Zeromax.

It could also be a pre-emptive move to ensure that the Karimovs have an overseas base were they to lose power or leave the country, added the cables.

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