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Jailed Tajik Oppositionist Threatens More Rahmon Revelations

A group of Tajiks protested in December in front of the U.A.E. Embassy in Moscow against the arrest of Umarali Quvatov.
A group of Tajiks protested in December in front of the U.A.E. Embassy in Moscow against the arrest of Umarali Quvatov.
The latest twist in the tale of former Tajikistan insider Umarali Quvatov could go straight to the heart of the nepotistic regime of President Emomali Rahmon.

A purported taped telephone conversation between Quvatov and Shamsullo Sohibov, a son-in-law of Rahmon's, appeared on YouTube on January 10.

In the roughly two-minute recording, a man who is purportedly Sohibov complains in profane language that nothing is done in Tajikistan without Rahmon's approval. He says that Tajik ministers even sometimes deny his requests, despite his close relations with Rahmon through his marriage to presidential daughter Rukhshona Rahmonova.

While the YouTube clip contains little in the way of explosive claims, a Quvatov aide says it is merely the first of many that will expose corruption at the heart of the Rahmon regime.

The aide, Nikolai Nikolaev, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that Quvatov's team is releasing the material in a bid to prove that Rahmon's relatives used extortion and intimidation to take control of a company called Faroz that exports oil products to Afghanistan via Tajik territory. Quvatov claims that he and Sohibov were co-owners of Faroz before Quvatov was forced to leave the country.

Umarali Quvatov
Umarali Quvatov
"Yes, we have enough material to create a scandal within the Rahmon political family," Nikolaev says. "[We have enough] so that the country will understand that we are not bluffing, that we really do have proof that will expose the entire financial system under which Mr. Quvatov's business was stolen.

"It will show who was really behind the company Faroz, as well as the personal relations between the son-in-law and the father-in-law (Rahmon) -- how (Sohibov) relates to him, what he calls him, and so on."

The Tajik presidential administration did not respond to RFE/RL's requests for comment. A spokesman for Faroz told RFE/RL only that no one named Sohibov works for the firm. Faroz also released a statement saying that Quvatov has never had any role in the company.

'Choosing Our Own Tactics'

Quvatov was arrested in Dubai on December 23 on a Tajik extradition request. He claims that he was instrumental in setting up the vast network of companies controlled by Rahmon's relatives and political cronies, while Tajikistan accuses him of carrying out fraud worth $1.2 million.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon
Nikolaev, who is in Dubai, says Quvatov is releasing the material in an attempt to pressure Dushanbe into rescinding its extradition request. He says the timing of the release of further recordings will be determined by the actions of Tajik prosecutors.

"We are now going to be looking at the tactics of the investigators and will be choosing our own tactics," he says. "And, depending on necessities, we will determine the interval after which we will place these recordings on the Internet."

Nikolaev says the recording was made at the beginning of the dispute between Quvatov and the Rahmon clan, but he did not say exactly when. He added that further installments from the conversations will allegedly show how Sohibov offered Quvatov money to give up control of his business and then threatened him.

Quvatov first made headlines in the summer of 2012 when he fled Tajikistan for Moscow. There he formed an organization called Group 24, which he claims is a new political movement opposed to Rahmon. Tajik Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda told journalists on January 9 that Dushanbe is seeking Quvatov's extradition but did not specify any possible charges against him.

Nikolaev told RFE/RL that Quvatov flew to Dubai to meet with "other structures" in order to discuss a common strategy against Rahmon.

Rahmon has headed Tajikistan since 1992. His family is widely believed to control virtually the entire economy of the country. A U.S. diplomatic cable released by the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks in 2010 asserted that Rahmon and his relatives "play hardball to protect their business interests, no matter the cost to the economy writ large."

Written by RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service

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