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More Former Karimova Associates Arrested In Uzbekistan

Gulnara Karimova has been under house arrest since last year
Gulnara Karimova has been under house arrest since last year

Authorities in Uzbekistan have arrested nine more individuals with current or former business ties to Gulnara Karimova, further widening the pall of corruption around the disgraced eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Official sources in the capital, Tashkent, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on August 18 that the nine suspects arrested this week include two former senior managers of a local Coca-Cola bottler and a man thought to be a former financial adviser of Karimova.

No more details were immediately available.

Karimova's fall from grace since late 2013 has been as puzzling as it has been spectacular, landing the entrepreneur and onetime pop princess with the stage name of Googoosha -- and her hands in everything from mobile telephony to jewelry and fashion -- under house arrest and seemingly totally alienated from the rest of the presidential family.

Early last year, the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office announced the launch of a criminal case against a group of men and women suspected of money-laundering and forgery.

Thirteen individuals, including well-known Uzbek businessman Rustam Madumarov -- who is believed to be Karimova's boyfriend -- and Gayane Avakian, a woman who is another Karimova associate, were sentenced to lengthy jail terms in July 2014.

In 2012, two executives from bottler Coca-Cola Ichimligi Uzbekistan, Alisher Ergashev and Shokhrukh Sobirov, were arrested by police in Switzerland on suspicion of money laundering. They spent several months in the Swiss custody before leaving Europe for Uzbekistan after their release on bail.

Karimova controlled Coca-Cola Ichimligi Uzbekistan -- which was established by Karimova's ex-husband Uzbek-American Mansur Maqsudi, whom she divorced in 1993 -- until October 2013.

In March 2014, Swiss and Swedish prosecutors announced they were investigating Karimova and her associates on suspicion of money laundering, also mentioning Ergashev and Sobirov as figuring in the case.

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department won permission to seize $300 million in assets in connection with a Russian-Uzbek bribery scandal involving Karimova.

Amsterdam-based telecoms company Vimpelcom has been under investigation by Dutch, Swiss, and U.S. authorities over business practices in Uzbekistan. A self-styled whistle-blower earlier this year suggested foreign minority owners of Uzbekistan's biggest mobile-phone operator should have been aware of millions of dollars' worth of alleged bribes being paid.

Once a well-traveled businesswoman and socialite seen as a potential successor to her authoritarian father, who has been in power since before the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Karimova is also at the center of a financial-crimes probe in Uzbekistan.

She has reportedly been under house arrest in Tashkent since last year, with occasional appeals emerging in which she purportedly alleges beatings and other abuse.

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