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TASHKENT -- An Uzbek financier has been convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison over a pyramid scheme in which tens of thousands of people lost money.

The Tashkent regional court handed down the verdict and sentence against Ahmad Tursunboev on February 21.

The court sentenced Tursunboev to 13 years in prison but shaved off one-quarter of that under an amnesty and said that the term should be counted as having started on the day of his arrest in June 2016.

Authorities say Tursunboev, known in Uzbekistan as Ahmadboi, created a financial pyramid promising investors big dividends. Officials estimate that investors lost millions of dollars over the five years that the scheme operated.

Another nickname for Tursunboev was the "Uzbek Mavrodi" -- after Russian businessman Sergei Mavrodi, whose MMM pyramid scheme deprived millions of Russians of their money -- in some cases leaving them destitute -- in the 1990s.

Authorities say Tursunboev and his associates acquired significant wealth in Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country of 30 million that is struggling with economic problems.

Investigators have said they confiscated millions of dollars in cash, luxurious homes, cars, and other possessions from Tursunboev and his associates, and that Tursunboev had wired substantial amounts of money abroad.

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