WASHINGTON -- A U.S. judge has again postponed a deadline for federal authorities to agree with Uzbekistan over what to do with hundreds of millions of dollars linked to the daughter of the Central Asian country's late president.
Judge Andrew Carter's order on November 2 sets a new deadline for the end of January 2017 for the two sides to agree on the fate of the funds currently being held in a Swiss bank account.
The order also means that the talks, which have been described to RFE/RL as very difficult, continue to be problematic.
"They've been talking for what, almost nine months now?" said Brian Campbell, a U.S. lawyer who has advocated for Uzbek civil-society groups trying to influence the negotiations. "You would think if they were going well, they would come to some sort of conclusion."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department placed a seizure order on more than $600 million stemming from an audacious multiyear bribery scheme allegedly involving Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, an authoritarian leader who died two months ago.
U.S. officials have indicated that they want to return the money to Uzbekistan. But there are deep concerns about who will receive the money, how it will be disbursed, and what sort of oversight there will be.
Uzbek officials, meanwhile, are chafing at the idea of Washington dictating how they spend money that they see as rightfully theirs.
Further complicating matters is the ongoing political transition in Uzbekistan following Karimov's death, which was announced on September 2 following days of secrecy and speculation about his condition.
Karimov had ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist since before the Soviet collapse, and in the weeks since his death, the acting president, Shavkat Mirziyaev, has moved to consolidate his power, installing allies in key government agencies and bureaucracies.
Mirziyaev is widely expected to secure a formal term as president in elections scheduled to be held next month.
The State Department referred questions about the negotiations over the illicit funds to the Justice Department, which is conducting the talks with the Uzbeks. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Gulnara's whereabouts, meanwhile, continues to be a mystery.
In her heyday, she gained notoriety for a glamorous lifestyle that included designing jewelry, staging fashion shows, running television stations and night clubs, and recording syrupy pop videos. She was once seen as heir apparent to her father.
Two years ago, however, she was reportedly put under house arrest in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and little has been heard of her since. She was not seen publicly at her father's lavish funeral.