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Swiss Authorities Grant Bail To Two Uzbeks In Money Laundering Probe

Gulnara Karimova's name has been linked with a high-profile money-laundering case in Switzerland.
Gulnara Karimova's name has been linked with a high-profile money-laundering case in Switzerland.
Two Uzbek nationals arrested by Swiss authorities in July for their alleged role in a high-profile money-laundering case have been released on bail.

Swiss Federal Prosecutor's spokeswoman Jeannette Balmer told RFE/RL on October 18 that Alisher Ergashev and Shokhrukh Sobirov were released on bail two days previously.

Swiss media reported earlier that Swiss authorities had frozen some 600 million Swiss francs ($640 million) held in various accounts belonging to four Uzbek nationals associated with authoritarian Uzbek President Islam Karimov's daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

Ergashev and Sobirov were executives at Coca-Cola Uzbekistan, a company formerly owned by Karimova's ex-husband.

The other two individuals whose Swiss bank accounts were frozen are Gayane Avakyan and Bekhzod Akhmedov.

Avakyan is the operator of Takilant, a company at the heart of a parallel investigation under way in Sweden. Swedish prosecutors are investigating whether the partially state-owned Swedish telecommunications firm TeliaSonera illegally paid $320 million into Takilant's offshore accounts in exchange for 3G licenses and access to the Uzbek market.

Avakyan is also the director of Karimova's Dom Stilya fashion house in Tashkent and is frequently photographed with Karimova.

Akhmedov served as the head of Russian mobile phone operator MTS's Uzbek subsidiary. He fled Uzbekistan earlier this summer amid a dispute in which Uzbek officials revoked MTS's license and demanded nearly $1 billion in back taxes after leveling charges of financial wrongdoing.

MTS in turn accused Uzbek authorities of making false allegations in order to strip the company of its assets.

Akhmedov's current whereabouts are unknown. An Interpol warrant has been issued for his arrest at the request of the Uzbek government.

Last month, a Tashkent court found Akhmedov guilty in absentia of fraud and abuse of office.

Karimova, 40, is Uzbekistan's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva. She is frequently mentioned as a likely successor to her father, Islam Karimov, who has ruled the gas-rich republic with an iron hand since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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