The former head of Uzbekistan's powerful security service is under criminal investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.
The reported case against Ikhtiyor Abdullaev follows the February 11 announcement by Uzbekistan's president that Abdullaev had resigned as head of the State Security Service for health reasons.
Abdullaev's abrupt departure from office, and the reported probe against him, were the latest in an ongoing purge of top Uzbek officials.
A statement by President Shavkat Mirziyoev's office said Abdullaev, 52, had stepped down after undergoing two spinal surgeries.
Three people close to the government told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that a criminal investigation was opened into Abdullaev on February 8 on bribery and abuse-of-office charges. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
There was no official confirmation about the investigation from law enforcement agencies. The Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL "we have no information about this matter."
Since assuming the presidency following Karimov's death in 2016, Mirziyoev has been gradually moving to fire or remove large numbers of government officials.
Abdullaev was appointed as head of the State Security Service in January 2018 after Mirziyoev fired Rustam Inoyatov, the long-serving security chief who, under late President Islam Karimov, had turned the service into a powerful and feared agency.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has been a focus of particular intrigue. Prior to becoming head of the State Security Service, Abdullaev served as prosecutor-general.
In 2017, Mirziyoev excoriated the Prosecutor-General's Office, calling officials there "the biggest thieves." Then-Prosecutor-General Rashidjon Qodirov was fired in February 2018 and later arrested.
Last month, court officials told RFE/RL that Qodiriov's corruption trial had begun in a Tashkent court.
Hundreds of employees of the Finance Ministry have also been dismissed, after Mirziyoev called out the ministry for corruption.
Defense Minister Abdusalom Azizov was appointed to replace Abdullaev and Bakhodir Kurbanov, previously commander of the Tashkent military district and head of the Tashkent police department, was appointed defense minister, the president's statement said.
Uzbek Security Chief Who Reportedly Resigned 'Under Criminal Investigation'
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