Sunday, December 21, 2014


Uzbekistan

Fresh Documents Link Uzbek President's Daughter To Swedes In TeliaSonera Case

The Uzbek president's daughter, Gulnara Karimova, has been described as a "robber baron" in U.S. diplomatic cables.
The Uzbek president's daughter, Gulnara Karimova, has been described as a "robber baron" in U.S. diplomatic cables.
By Farruh Yusupov and Daisy Sindelar
Did Scandinavian telecoms giant TeliaSonera pay Gulnara Karimova upwards of $300 million in bribes in order to break into the Uzbek mobile-phone market?

The company, which is partially owned by the Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian states, continues to say no.

But new documents offer compelling evidence that company executives actively sought direct contact with Karimova -- the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and an object of increasing interest as money-laundering investigations unfold in Sweden and Switzerland.

The documents, submitted this week by Swedish prosecutors, include TeliaSonera correspondence from 2007, in which executives speak of initiating "several channels" to the ruling elite -- including "a potential meeting with the No. 1 Daughter of Karimov, Gulnara Karimova, and her telecom colleagues soon."

The e-mail, written by Serkan Elder, the head of TeliaSonera subsidiary Fintur Holdings, also warns against meeting with the Uzbek telecoms minister, Akhmadully Aripov, until "we have an understanding with Karimova's team as to who will be our local partner and how we would like to manage this operator."

In 2007, Karimova, who during the last decade has progressed through a series of diplomatic posts, was serving as an adviser to Uzbekistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, a post that would not normally serve as gatekeeper to major investment negotiations.

But the president's daughter, described as a "robber baron" in U.S. diplomatic cables, has long been suspected of acting as the family moneymaker, using her status to shake down local and foreign businesses. The Karimovs' private fortune is estimated in the billions.

Elder's letter goes on to list 13 companies that Karimova was believed to own or hold a share in at the time.

They include several telecoms companies, including Uzdunorbita, which was later sold to the Russian telecommunications giant MTS. It made headlines last summer when Tashkent aggressively sought to strip the company of its assets.

Incestuous Business Dealings

In an indication of the incestuous nature of Uzbek business dealings, it was the head of Uzdunorbita, Bekhzod Akhmedov, who served as Karimova's middleman in her negotiations with TeliaSonera, an ostensible competitor.

A Swedish television documentary aired last month cited an anonymous TeliaSonera executive outlining Akhmedov's role in the talks and describing the situation as "totally crazy."

Akhmedov, who fled Uzbekistan in the wake of the MTS scandal, has since returned to Tashkent to face corruption charges. His fate is unknown.

Akhmedov is also one of four named suspects in the Swiss and Swedish money-laundering investigations. Swiss prosecutors have frozen upwards of $600 million in bank accounts held by Akhmedov in Geneva.

Swedish prosecutors this week followed suit, submitting the latest tranche of documents to an appeals court with the aim of confiscating 1.5 billion Swedish crowns ($230 million), part of the initial payments to Takilant, the shadowy, Gibraltar-based company that orchestrated TeliaSonera's entry into the Uzbek market.

Gayane Avakyan, an associate of Karimova's still in her twenties, served as the head of Takilant and is one of the four Uzbeks named in the ongoing investigation.

TeliaSonera denies any wrongdoing. In a statement following the submission of the court documents this week, it expressed confidence that ongoing investigations would prove the company had not participated in bribery or money laundering of any kind.

TeliaSonera, which is aggressively investing in the mobile-phone market in neighboring Kazakhstan, has also resisted suggestions from a government minister to temporarily suspend senior managers implicated in the Uzbek deal.

Karimova, who has recently taken to Twitter to rebuff allegations made against her in the press, has made no comment on the TeliaSonera case or Elder's e-mail, which cites sources as saying her claims of receiving a degree from Harvard University are untrue.

Daisy Sindelar

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
January 12, 2013 20:20
When are you fine gentlemen give up your obsession with this Mongoloid beauty? Is this neverending Gulnara saga going to take over your family lives, provided you have any? Are you dreaming of her while spending good American dollars?
In Response

by: Frank from: London
January 13, 2013 13:37
"When are you fine gentlemen give up your obsession with this Mongoloid beauty?"

And you approve of Martha Stewart, do you? Gulnara Karimova makes all of Wall Street's greatest fraudsters look like petty crooks. And as for finding Gulnara desirable you might as well wish you had Saddam Hussein as your father in law. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In Response

by: American Troll
January 14, 2013 06:13
Beauty? For real?
1) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, judging by the photo,
2) Hair so bleached, a gentle breeze will snap it off, and
3) Make-up tips from Frank-N-Furter.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 13, 2013 17:12
It is such a pity that the article on Gulnara does have a "Comments" section, whereas the two articles listed as the two currently most popular on this web-site and dedicated to the French military involvement in Mali do not contain such a section. After all, it might be of interest to the readership of this web-site to have a discussion on (a) where the Islamists that the French are fighting in Mali now got their weapons from (quite a few argue that the weapons come from Lybian arsenals made available to these Islamists by... the French themselves and the US two years ago as the latter bombed al-Qaeda into power in Lybia); and (b) on why is it that France is supposedly fighting al-Qaeda in Mali, while supporting al-Qaeda in Syria.
Maybe, you, guys from the RFE/RL, could write an article on this this one, given that Gulnara and her business connections have already been extensively covered here?

by: anonymous from: moscow
January 13, 2013 18:10
Having read her Twitter feed I have been wondering about that Harvard degree....
In Response

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
January 15, 2013 06:38
There is no logic arguing those deficient in the understanding of Eastern and Western societies, political psychologies and culture. What these commentators call bribes in East, are legalized as commissions in West. I believe, this is propaganda against Karimovs, Uzbekistan and its people. Doesn't West has robber barrens? Moreover, these folks fail to understand the evolutionary stages of modernization and system transition. We ourselves have much more corruption -called white collar- than many developing countries. What a pity that tax payers money is being spent on pure propaganda, creating stereotypes about Central Asian people. This is not cultivating goodwill, only making CA people vigilant against the false Western goodwill and at the same time blurring our own perceptions, which is leading us into political misjudgments. Keep doing. Life in Eurasia is going on by their own realities, which, if we fail to understand, is our own fault. Remember policies once judged rationale by our political leadership at one time turned out irrational at other times.
In Response

by: Frank from: London
January 15, 2013 10:42
Dr. Kazi, hi.

"Doesn't West has robber barrens? "

No, the worst the West has is fraudsters like Bernie Madoff and dilution scammers: directors/majority shareholders who abuse minority shareholders by issuing shares to themselves in private placings when they know there is a good chance of "doubling or trebling share price" news coming out (often near the bottom of a commodity price cycle in the case of primary producers). What is different about Gulnara is that she has the whole apparatus of the Uzbek State at her beck and call, including a corrupt judiciary and a censored press to help her steal shareholders' businesses. I doubt it has anything to do with Western propaganda. In contrast private placements of shares to favoured shareholders at heavily discounted prices before multi-bagging share price news is often completely legal, but Gulnara's behaviour is not. Also the scale of Gulnara's behaviour is millions of times worse. Gulnara's purchased celebrity endorsements do not make her innocent either. Her vanity business projects (music and jewellery) do not account for her wealth. They are smokescreens.

"We ourselves have much more corruption -called white collar- than many developing countries."

The scale of it is completely different in the West (as evidenced by the different positions of Uzbekistan (177) and USA(19), UK(17 joint) in the table of least corrupt countries produced by Transparency International in 2012 using objective measures of corruption. Also there is a tradition of investigative journalism in the USA and UK to expose corruption: there isn't in Uzbekistan.

Your assertion flies completely in the face of reality: not a single developed Western nation is in the bottom part of this table. You might also note that two Asian countries are higher up than the USA and UK (Singapore (5) and HongKong (14)), so it is nothing to do with Western bias or propaganda: I suggest it is to do with the rule of law.

"What a pity that tax payers money is being spent on pure propaganda, creating stereotypes about Central Asian people."

1. The email evidence of Teliasonera employees suggests they knew they had to keep Gulnara happy.

2. It is not normal to have a rival head of a telecom company negotiate the licence price of a new entrant to the same market (Bekzod Akhmedov was head of MTS, the parent company of Uzdonrobita which was a rival mobile phone company).

3. It seems strange to pay the existing license holder (Gayane Avakyan, a 29 year old not known for owning such wealth) when it is the Uzbek State that is issuing the license.

4. The absence of any proper scrutiny in the Uzbek press of such a transaction should raise alarm bells in most people's minds.

5. Why should Gulnara Karimova control access to the Uzbek mobile telecoms market and receive what you no doubt would like to call a commission of $320m for nothing else other than being related to the President? That money should have gone to the Uzbek State.

P.S. Do you think many Uzbek citizens can get foreign exchange to take holidays in Switzerland? Do you think many Swiss people want to visit Uzbekistan for holidays? Why do you think Uzbekistan Airways all of a sudden flies to Geneva? It surely does not do it to make a profit for the Uzbek State? I put it to you it is nothing more than to facilitate wealth transfer out of Uzbekistan without having to inform foreign owned air carriers of the nature of the cargo (gold?), and that it also has the advantage of circumventing Uzbekistan's Central Bank Governor.


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