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Exiles 'enter Swiss home of ex-Uzbek diplomat'

AFP · 5 Jan 2014, 18:06

Published: 05 Jan 2014 18:06 GMT+01:00

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The members of a dissident group called Uzdem Fund Suisse entered the abandoned but not quite empty luxury home of Uzbekistan's once all-powerful Gulnara Karimova on December 23rd, broadcasting images from within on Skype and tweeting about what they saw, Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche reported.
Works of art, gold and silver trinkets, jewellery, and an 18th century jewel-encrusted Koran were among the items the group filmed in the villa overlooking Lake Geneva, which Karimova purchased in 2009 for 18 million francs ($20 million).
Head of the group Sefer Bekcan, a 53-year-old Uzbek dissident who has been living in Switzerland for the past 15 years, compared the tour around the estate to "visiting a museum, without a ticket".
According to Le Matin Dimanche, the group claims Uzbekistan's fallen first daughter "confiscated" many of the items from the national museum in Tashkent.
Karimova, who long managed to combine politics with a career as a pop star, fashion designer and head of charitable funds and who was seen as a possible successor to her 75-year-old father, has suffered a spectacular fall from power in recent months.
Her media empire was shut down by the authorities in October and more than a dozen boutiques selling Western clothes in Tashkent, believed to belong to her or her business partners, were closed on allegations of tax evasion and other charges.
That blow came after Karimova, who had been serving as her country's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, was removed from that position and stripped of her diplomatic immunity in July.
Karimova, who has been dogged for years by allegations of money laundering in Europe that have prompted an investigation in France, left Switzerland shortly after that, Sunday's report said.
The dissident photos from inside her Geneva home, published by the paper, showed left-behind jewels, artwork, pictures and clothing, as well as an empty floor safe, furniture covered in plastic and a Bentley and a Mercedes SLK still parked in the garage.
Bekcan did not reveal how he and the other dissidents got hold of the keys to Karimova's house, but said several of her staff members had joined the dissident group, according to the report.
Another possibility, according to the report, was that Uzbekistan's Rustem Inoyatov security service, believed to be heading the campaign against her back home, and Karimova's estranged younger sister Lola Karimova Tillayeva, who owns a house nearby, had helped the dissidents.
Geneva police, meanwhile, said they had informed the house owner they could not take action against the intruders unless an official complaint was filed.
The dissidents were in the end forced to leave when a private security firm was called in, Le Matin Dimanche reported.

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