A reputed crime boss from Uzbekistan has spoken out on social media about a violent family feud that involves the former head of international amateur boxing who is reputed to be one of the world's leading drug kingpins.
Ravshan "Zolotoi" (Golden) Muhiddinov posted a 12-minute video on Instagram on February 21 in which he spoke about being abducted and "tortured" by 10 men at an Istanbul hotel because of an irreconcilable dispute he had with his uncle, Gafur Rakhimov, who headed the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) and has been named by the United States as a leading international heroin trafficker.
Although Muhiddinov, 31, didn't name Rakhimov, referring to "a relative in Dubai," other relatives of Muhiddinov confirmed to RFE/RL he was speaking about Rakhimov when he described the man he called "the initiator" of the November 2019 attack against him.
Meanwhile, Kazakh crime boss Arman "Dikiy" (Wild) Dzhumageldiev has admitted that he invited Muhiddinov to a meeting at an Istanbul hotel where he was beaten.
In a February 28 audio recording posted to his Instagram account, Dzhumageldiev said Muhiddinov was struck several times at the meeting because he was carrying a gun.
But he denied that Muhiddinov had been "tortured" and called him a "coward" for going to the Turkish police about the incident.
Business And Boxing
Muhiddinov is an influential Uzbek businessman who lives in Istanbul. He is also alleged to be a member of an international crime syndicate called the Brothers' Circle.
In fact, his purported role in the Brothers' Circle is said to have given him enormous influence with the so-called Thieves-In-Law -- a notorious criminal clan that originated in Stalinist prison camps during the Soviet era and has since expanded across the globe.
A retired colonel from Uzbekistan's security services, as well as sources within the Central Asian criminal underworld, have spoken to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity about the relationship between Muhiddinov and Rakhimov.
They say Rakhimov had been a member of the Brothers' Circle until 2013 when he quit the group and named Muhiddinov to replace him.
Rakhimov is the controversial Uzbek sports administrator once in charge of Olympic boxing as the president of the AIBA.
Rakhimov denies ever taking part in any criminal activity but he has been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control for his alleged membership in the Brothers' Circle and purported support of the Thieves-In-Law.
Although Rakhimov hired powerful law firms in the United States and Britain in an attempt to clear his name, U.S. courts have rejected calls for him to be removed from the U.S. blacklist.
But Rakhimov did manage in July 2018 to get his name removed from a list of individuals "wanted" by the Prosecutor-General's Office in Uzbekistan, where he faced a criminal investigation into allegations of extortion, forgery, and the laundering millions of dollars from an organized criminal organization.
Rakhimov lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai.
RFE/RL became aware of the conflict between Muhiddinov and Rakhimov while reviewing a court complaint filed by Rakhimov's wife, Lola Rakhimova, against a powerful Uzbek businessman who controlled the country's poultry industry.
That man, Oybek Miraliev, is a former business partner of Rakhimov known by the nicknames "Oybek-Egg" and "Oybek-Faberge."
An indictment obtained by RFE/RL from Tashkent's Department for Combating Organized Crime named Rakhimova and her younger sister as plaintiffs in a claim that Miraliev stole $650,000 from them in a real-estate deal.
The indictment also said Rakhimova had accused Miraliev of stealing her luxury Mercedes-Benz along with $7 million from Rakhimov.
Eventually, in the fall of 2020, a court in Uzbekistan sentenced Miraliev to 11 years in prison.
Meanwhile, an Uzbek official close to the investigation told RFE/RL that Rakhimov had asked his nephew, Muhiddinov, to collect the money from Miraliev.
Relatives of Muhiddinov told RFE/RL that after looking into the situation, Muhiddinov thought Miraliev was innocent of stealing the money. They say Muhiddinov believed Rakhimov's wife had taken the money.
Muhiddinov's relatives also told RFE/RL that when Muhiddinov explained to Rakhimov what he thought had happened, the former international boxing chief became enraged that his nephew was "siding with his enemy."
According to an unconfirmed report in the online Uzbek magazine Eltuz, Rakhimov's wife suggested that Muhiddinov had collected the money from Miraliev but was keeping it for himself.
Eltuz also claimed Rakhimova told her husband that he should call two figures from Central Asia's criminal underworld to shake down Muhiddinov for the money: Dzhumageldiev and an Azerbaijani member of the Thieves-In-Law named Nadir Salifov, who was also known by the nickname "Lotu Guli."
Eltuz's story said Salifov and Dzhumageldiev lured Muhiddinov to a hotel where he was abducted by about a dozen men of "athletic build."
The publication reported that, after tying Muhiddinov's hands and feet together, the men beat him brutally for hours, repeatedly dunked his head underwater in a bathtub, threatened to rape him, and forced him to make a video in which he promised to pay his debt.
Eltuz also said the hotel-room video surfaced on social media in 2020 after Rakhimova had paid $20,000 for it.
"Physically I was broken because when it is 10 against one, any monster can be bent," Muhiddinov said in his February 21 Instagram video from his office in Istanbul. But he said his "spirit survived" because he was "with the truth."
"When they saw that nothing was working out and all the methods that they used against me did not bring any result, they began to make claims against my honor," Muhiddinov said. "As a normal, worthy man I began to apply methods from my side to get out of that situation and preserve my honor. And I managed to do it."
"Then the conversation was about giving them a certain amount of money so that they would release me from that situation," Muhiddinov said. "At the same time, I had to say to the video camera that if I don't give them this money, I'll be an inappropriate person."
Claiming that he was "blackmailed" into making the hotel-room video, Muhiddinov now denies that he owes money to his "relative in Dubai."
"Ravshan is not one of those people who, being afraid of someone, will pay money though someone," he said, speaking about himself in the third person. "If Ravshan owes someone some money, it is not necessary to scare him, beat him, or scold him. There is no need to blackmail him. Ravshan will bring it himself. It will be necessary. He will apologize."
Message To Followers
Reaction in Uzbekistan to Muhiddinov's Instagram video suggests his support among young Uzbeks has grown while Rakhimov's clout and influence has waned since he stepped down under pressure as AIBA president on March 22, 2019.
Muhiddinov also signaled to his Instagram followers that he is not going to forgive Dzhumageldiev for the incident.
As for Muhiddinov's former Thieves-in-Law friend from Azerbaijan who also invited him to the November 2019 hotel-room meeting, Salifov was shot dead in the back of the head by a member of his own inner circle less than a year after the incident while playing cards at an Istanbul restaurant.
Sources in Central Asia's criminal underworld told RFE/RL that Salifov's killing was ordered by the Russian mafia godfather Zakhary Kalashov -- an ethnic Georgian Yazidi who uses the nickname "Shakro Molodoi."
Although imprisoned in Russia, the 67-year-old Kalashov reportedly continues to head the Thieves-In-Law organization.
RFE/RL's sources in Central Asian crime groups say Salifov's killing was ordered because he broke the Thieves-In-Law's so-called "code of honor" by assaulting rival members in a dispute.
Muhiddinov was detained for questioning by Turkish police after they'd arrested the man suspected of killing Salifov and found from his cell phone that he'd sent a photo of Salifov to Muhiddinov just before the shooting.
But Muhiddinov was never charged in connection with Salifov's killing.
Muhiddinov fled Uzbekistan in 2007 after he was charged with heading an organized criminal group.
He was only 18 at the time and has never stood trial on those charges. But he was detained in Istanbul in 2009 on an international arrest warrant filed in Tashkent and was held for three years while Turkish officials considered Uzbekistan's request for his extradition.
In 2012, Turkish authorities released Muhiddinov after ruling that Tashkent had not provided enough evidence to extradite him.
He then went to the United Arab Emirates where, in 2013, he was again detained on an international arrest warrant issued by Uzbekistan.
But after two months, the courts in the United Arab Emirates also rejected Tashkent's extradition request for a lack of supporting evidence.
Muhiddinov then moved to Istanbul where he was said to replace Rakhimov within the Brothers' Circle.
Sources familiar with the Thieves-In-Law told RFE/RL it was during Muhiddinov's two-month imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates that he met and befriended the prison's criminal underboss, a convicted murderer from Uzbekistan named Akhtam Yakubov.
They say Muhiddinov helped Yakubov relocate to Istanbul after his release from prison in 2015 -- introducing him to crime bosses from former Soviet republics who now live in Istanbul and in the United Arab Emirates and paving the way for Yakubov to be "crowned" as a Thieves-in-Law member.
In his February 21 Instagram video, Muhiddinov accused his uncle, Rakhimov, of initiating the attack against him -- saying he'd been asked by many people if his "attitude toward Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan has changed" as a result of being beaten.
"Brothers, I will tell you the following: you cannot judge nations based on the sneaky acts of some individuals because every nation has good people and bad people," Muhiddinov said in his Instagram video.
"If we come from that philosophy, we have to condemn first of all our own nation because the initiator of that evil act was an Uzbek who represented Uzbekistan in certain circles abroad," Muhiddinov continued, describing a man that his relatives said is Rakhimov.
"We followed him with our heads held high, carrying his flag. Frankly speaking, we learned a lot of good things from him," Muhiddinov added. "But without being sure about certain issues, he makes conclusions from the words of his own wife. As a result, the entire ocean has been drowned in puddles."
"It is deeply regrettable because all these people who respected and valued him are deeply disappointed," Muhiddinov continued in the video. "He has lost his support, first of all, from his relatives as well as from his compatriots. I don't know if there is anything worse than this for a man. From now on, let him live with that humiliation."
Muhiddinov also made a reference to Dzhumageldiev, who has more than 300,000 followers on his Instagram account and posted a photo of himself on January 27 together with Rakhimov at the former international boxing chief's residence in Dubai.
Muhiddinov concluded: "There are plenty of serious brothers among Kazakhs and Azerbaijanis who are heroes who proudly represent their country and have respected reputations. But they are not Instagram authorities."