The apparent demise of Zeromax, Uzbekistan’s largest conglomerate, may provide insight into the political future of President Islam Karimov’s eldest daughter, Gulnara. Once considered a possible successor to her father, some political experts now believe Zeromax’s current troubles are indicative that Gulnara’s ambitions are changing.
What exactly is going on with Zeromax is difficult to determine. The Swiss-registered entity has been Uzbekistan’s largest employer, operating in a variety of fields, including food processing, textiles and energy. But of late, unconfirmed reports have swirled about the conglomerate, involving layoffs, unpaid debts and tax burdens.
According to a recent report posted by the news website Uznews.net, Zeromax was deemed liable for a half-billion dollars in unpaid debts. And Uzbek opposition media outlets reported in early May that a Tashkent court issued an order to freeze the conglomerate’s assets.
Back in March, Zeromax’s chief executive, Miridal Djalalov, was reportedly detained for “questioning,” but later released. At the time, sources in Tashkent told EurasiaNet.org that Zeromax had “tax problems.”
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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.