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Uzbekistan: Police Crackdown on Currency Traders Signals Elite Infighting

The Mega Planet supermarket in Tashkent (pictured here in 2013) is a notorious hangout spot for illegal currency traders. Lately, authorities have embarked on yet another – possibly quixotic – drive to eliminate the currency black market. (Photo: Joanna Lillis)

Shortly after lunchtime on March 20, a boxy, old Zhiguli sedan pulled up near the Mega Planet supermarket in Tashkent, a notorious hangout spot for illegal currency traders.
 
The money changers keep heavy bricks of tattered, low-value Uzbek sum notes in carrier bags in the trunks of their cars. Unfamiliar customers are normally treated with suspicion, but one dealer, Rasul, took the risk with the newcomer emerging from the Zhiguli.
 
The pair chatted cordially enough, only for the customer to suddenly shout “Ushlaimiz!” (Grab him!). Another two young men – plainclothes cops, like their accomplice – pounced from the Zhiguli and, after a short tussle, wrestled Rasul to the ground and slapped handcuffs on him. The fall must have been a hard one, because the blood was pouring down Rasul’s face.
 
Onlookers, shoppers and a EurasiaNet.org correspondent quickly gathered at the scene.
 
As the other traders scattered, uniformed policemen suddenly appeared. Most of the traders got away, but one was caught as he tried to start his car.
 

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Uzbekistan: Police Crackdown on Currency Traders Signals Elite Infighting

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