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Tajik Parliament Criminalizes 'Illegal' Hard-Currency Exchanges

DUSHANBE -- The parliament in Tajikistan has approved a bill criminalizing "illegal" hard currency exchanges.

According to the bill approved by Tajik lawmakers on March 9, "illegal hard currency exchange operations" will be punished by up to nine years in prison.

The bill, which still must be signed by President Emomali Rahmon to become law, deems as illegal any hard-currency exchange operations outside of banks and official financial institutions.

Tajik authorities said in January that the bill's aim was to "curb" illegal speculation with hard currency that led to the abrupt devaluation of the Tajik currency, the somoni.

In December, Tajik authorities shut down all independent currency exchange booths operating across the country, citing the somoni's dropping value.

Tajik citizens have complained that Tajik banks have set the value of the somoni artificially high, prompting many to turn to the black market.