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Gulnara Karimova Ordered To Prison After Violating House Arrest, Uzbek Prosecutor Says


Gulnara Karimova was once seen as a possible heir to her father, the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov. (file photo)

Uzbekistan's top prosecutor says that Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of the late President Islam Karimov, has been ordered to prison after a court found she had violated terms of her house arrest.

The March 5 order by a Tashkent court was the latest dramatic development for Karimova, who at one point had been seen as a possible heir to the presidency until she was brought down by a sprawling multinational corruption investigation.

In a statement, the Prosecutor-General’s Office said that Karimova had violated the terms of her house arrest on November 22, when she allegedly left the residence of her daughter Iman, where she had been confined since June 2018. Karimova also allegedly used the Internet for unnamed reasons, the prosecutor said.

The statement said Tashkent’s Yashnabad District Court on March 5 approved an order sought by the Interior Ministry requesting that Karimova be sent to a prison colony to serve out the remainder of her five-year house arrest.

Gregoire Mangeat, a Swiss lawyer who has been serving as defense counsel for Karimova in recent years, tweeted that the 46-year-old "was forcibly removed from the apartment in which she was held in Tashkent" and “taken to an unknown place."

Uzbekistan’s authorities “continue to exert psychological and physical pressure on her to force her to withdraw her appeals and abandon all her rights and property in Switzerland," Mangeat also wrote, denouncing what he called "totally arbitrary methods."

Karimova’s daughter Iman posted several blurry photographs to her Instagram account on March 5 that purported to show Karimova being taken away by law enforcement agents. Mangeat also posted the picture on his Twitter account.

In another unverified post also made to her Instagram account, Iman said agents had come to the residence at 7 p.m. local time, threatened Karimova, and then dragged her from the house.

A decade ago, when her father was still alive, Karimova was a flashy socialite, known for fashion shows and syrupy pop music videos, and according to U.S. diplomatic cables, was reviled in many parts of Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

She was also dogged by persistent reports of rampant bribery and extortion involving foreign companies.

In 2013, reports emerged first in Swedish media that Karimova had used her position to serve as a gatekeeper for international telecom companies looking to invest in Uzbekistan. As Central Asia’s most populous nation, it was considered a fast-growing market for mobile services.

The reports ultimately led to criminal investigations in Sweden, the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, focusing on major telecom companies.

Karimova disappeared from the public eye in 2014 and Uzbek prosecutors subsequently confirmed she was under house arrest and being investigated for suspected corruption and other charges.

According to the Prosecutor-General's statement, Karimova was sentenced in December 2017 to a 10-year prison term. But the following July, the sentence was reclassified to house arrest, and shortened to five years.

The fallout from the telecom bribery scandal continues to reverberate. A Dutch telecom company controlled by Russian interests paid a record $795 million fine to U.S. and Dutch authorities to settle foreign corruption charges in 2017-- one of the largest such fines in U.S. history.

Last month, three former executives of the Scandinavian telecom once known as TeliaSonera were acquitted by a Swedish court in a high-profile bribery case involving Karimova.

Islam Karimov died in 2016 after nearly a quarter-century in power.



With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Mike Eckel in Washington, D.C.

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