Photo: James O'Brien/OCCRP (©)
Khabibula Abdukadyr ran a Central Asian trading empire built on collusion with corrupt customs officials, was accused of laundering hundreds of millions in profits abroad, and got exposed. But far from being prosecuted, he and his family have only grown in influence.
For years, one man colluded with corrupt customs officials to dominate the vast flow of Chinese imports -- everything from T-shirts to high-end electronics -- that sustain Central Asia.
He raked in massive profits. He built powerful secret alliances. His employee admitted to laundering hundreds of millions of dollars on his behalf. Then he was exposed, his top government patron pleading guilty to corruption and landing on a sanctions list.
You’d think the authorities would crack down. But you’d be wrong.
Today, Khabibula Abdukadyr and his family have transformed their shadowy fortune into a global empire. The same companies that were used to funnel laundered funds have become investors in expansive real estate developments, gleaming residential and office towers, mosques, markets, factories, and more.
This is the story of how a man accused of building a vast smuggling empire has turned himself and his relatives into big-time businessmen -- as Central Asian governments welcomed their money with open arms.
This project is a joint collaboration between RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, OCCRP, Vlast (Kazakhstan), and Kloop (Kyrgyzstan).
Editing: Miranda Patrucic, Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, Julia Wallace, Drew Sullivan, and Pete Baumgartner
Writing: Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, and Miranda Patrucic
Coordination: Eldiyar Arykbaev
Reporting: Kelly Bloss, Martin Young, and nearly a dozen more reporters, including a number from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, worked on these stories. Most of their names are being withheld to protect their safety.
Fact-Checking: Olena LaFoy, Dima Stoianov, and Sergiu Ipatii
Translation: Ilia Donskih, Alyona Korolyova
Graphics and Design: James O’Brien, Edin Pasovic, Wojtek Grojec, Kristyna Foltynova, and Ivan Gutterman
Promotion: Kaisa Alliksaar, Giovana Faria, Charles Turner, Maria Semendyaeva, Samuel Brooke