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Tajikistan: 'Disappearance' Of President's Brother-In-Law Sparks Rumors

  • Farangis Najibullah

http://gdb.rferl.org/61656B99-7887-4CEC-9CDD-931C3CD47CA5_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/61656B99-7887-4CEC-9CDD-931C3CD47CA5_mw800_mh600.jpg Hasan Sadulloev (official site) Hasan Sadulloev, a powerful Tajik businessman and the brother-in-law of President Emomali Rahmon, has not been seen in public for nearly two weeks.


Sadulloev is considered to be one of the most powerful and wealthiest people in Tajikistan. His last public appearance was on May 2, when Tajik state television showed footage of Sadulloev accompanying President Emomali Rahmon in his meetings with residents in the southern Yavan district.


Speculation is rife across Tajikistan, as well as on regional websites -- including ferghana.ru and ariana.su -- that Sadulloev was shot dead on May 2 by his nephew, Rustam, who is Rahmon's eldest son. According to those websites, Sadulloev was allegedly killed after a family feud over control of Orienbank and amid the presidential family's dismay with Sadulloev's growing ambitions. The reports cannot be confirmed.


The 40-year-old Sadulloev controls Orienbank, which with reported assets of $47 million is one of the largest financial institutions in Tajikistan and a key part of Sadulloev's vast business empire.


Tajikistan's official media have been silent on the issue of Sadulloev's disappearance. The President's Office has not commented, either. Regional website uzmetronom.com reported that Rahmon has allegedly threatened to punish any source in Tajikistan who reports on the issue.


Sadulloev usually accompanied the president on his regional visits but was not seen with Rahmon during his trip to Kazakhstan this week. Also unusual is that Rahmon himself did not take part in Victory Day celebrations on May 9, which culminated with a military parade in the capital, Dushanbe. Rahmon had not missed the event since becoming president. These no-shows by Rahmon and Sadulloev have added to speculation that something is wrong within the first family.


'He Is In Good Health'


Officials at Orienbank insist that nothing has happened to Sadulloev, and that the rumors are nothing more than "old ladies gossiping at the marketplace." At least two officials at the bank told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that they had seen Sadulloev "just half an hour ago."


Sadulloev's deputy, Umed Davlatzoda, says Sadulloev is alive and well but does not want to comment on the rumors.


"Really, it's not more than a plot made by those who look for scandals," Davlatzoda says. "Thank God he is in good health. He is attending his work and, God willing, he is doing well."


Sadulloev, whose sister Azizamoh is married to the president, began to accumulate his wealth in late 1990. According to reports, Sadulloev's business empire includes at least 13 ventures in Tajikistan, including five cotton mills, several factories, and at least three food-processing companies. His business sphere also includes real-estate developments, transport, insurance companies and, of course, banking.


The popular FM radio station Imruz -- which was taken off the air last month after government officials cited "technical problems" -- is also part of Orienbank's media-holding group.


During the last year, there were independent media reports of bitter fighting between Sadulloev and some of Rahmon's nine children over control of Orienbank and other enterprises. "Charoghi Ruz," an independent Tajik-language publication run by Rahmon's outspoken critic Dodojon Atoullo, had reported on growing disagreements between Sadulloev and the president's daughter Tahmina. Among other ventures, Tahmina owns the Sitora shopping center in Dushanbe.


RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report

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