Uzbek leader's daughter faces criminal probe
AFP/The Local · 12 Mar 2014, 11:49
Published: 12 Mar 2014 11:49 GMT+01:00
- Exiles 'enter Swiss home of ex-Uzbek diplomat' (05 Jan 14)
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"The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland is investigating Gulnara Karimova . . . on suspicion of money laundering," the office said in a statement, adding that an investigation of people in her entourage had been broadened to include her personally last autumn.
Karimova, 41, had been shielded by diplomatic immunity until last July, when she was removed from her position as Uzbekistan's ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
She reportedly left Switzerland shortly after that and her name was added to the ongoing probe on September 16th, 2013, Swiss federal authorities said.
The results of the Swiss investigation had led to new corruption probes against her abroad, including in France and Sweden, it added.
Swiss authorities first launched a criminal money laundering probe against four Uzbek nationals with close ties to Karimova in July 2012, the statement said, adding that the suspected illegal activities were linked to the Uzbek telecommunications market.
Two of them were arrested that summer but released on bail the following October, Wednesday's statement said.
Police had searched Karimova's Geneva home at the end of August last year in search of evidence in the case.
In connection with the probe, Swiss authorities had blocked more than 800 million francs' worth of suspected Uzbek national artifacts in Switzerland, and were attempting to identify their origin, it said.
The Uzbek foreign ministry informed Switzerland in July last year that Karimova was no longer her country's permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
Her father Karimov, 76, has ruled Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his Harvard-educated daughter had been seen as a possible successor to him, although she has repeatedly denied such ambitions.
But since 2012, her name has been mentioned in a massive money laundering probe against Swedish-Finnish telecoms giant TeliaSonera.
The telecom company has been accused of bribing a woman with very close ties to Karimova, in a bid to secure a 3G mobile telephone licence and frequencies in Uzbekistan.
The Uzbek leader's daughter, who long managed to combine politics with a career as a pop star, fashion designer and head of charitable funds 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.
In December 2013, dissident Uzbek exiles broke into her Geneva mansion and published images of items allegedly pillaged from Uzbekistan's national museum.
The abandoned home overlooking Lake Geneva was purchased by Karimova in 2009 for 18 million francs ($20 million).