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Tajikistan: Student Medic Pays $16,000 Admission Bribe

The size of the alleged bribe needed to get an aspiring medical student into college in Tajikistan is, it turns out, enough to cover annual fees at some British universities.

Asia-Plus news website reported this week that the deputy rector of the Tajik State Medical University, Dilshod Solehov, is being investigated on suspicion he solicited an $16,000 payment in return for enrolling an Indian student who had failed his entrance exam.

Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this news is that somebody is actually facing prosecution. Medicine and education constitute a peak nexus of corruption in Tajikistan. The state anti-corruption agency — itself burdened with bad apples — have assessed the Health Ministry and the Education and Science Ministry as the two most graft-stricken government institutions.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that it is medical courses that attract the largest bribes — entrance can cost anything up to $25,000 by some accounts. The authorities insist that the introduction of a single testing center through which all university applicants are channeled has cut down on corruption, but it remains standard practice for parents to accumulate cash war chests all the same, just in case.

In August 2014, anticorruption officials detained a Tajik citizen, Rano Radjabova, on suspicion of taking out an $85,000 loan with the intent to get her son through university. It was not later reported how this investigation concluded.

These kinds of sums are risible compared to what goes on in other government departments. 

At the start of October, anticorruption officials revealed that they had detained a senior official in the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, Askar Nuralizoda, on suspicion of taking bribes worth $490,000. A search of his home yielded a stash of $10,000 in cash. The accusation made against Nuralizoda was that he was planning to extort $1 million in bribes in exchange for authorizing a $10 million grant.

And in early 2015, local media reported that the brother of the head of Customs Service and former deputy director of the anticorruption service Abdufattoh Goib was detained on suspicion of acting as intermediary in the payment of a $600,000 bribe. Najmiddin Saidzoda was working at the time as head of a regional branch of Tojiksodirotbonk, but it seems that he was promising to guarantee the payer of the kickback a job as head of the customs service in the Soghd province. Alas for him, the entire scheme was actually a sting operation organized by the State Committee for National Security.

A short while after he was detained, Saidzoda was released after paying 200,000 somoni fine ($30,500 at the time).

This last case provides multiple insights into how corruption investigations occur and why. Saidzoda is closely linked not just to a top official, but to the ruling family itself. His nephew, Goib’s son, Shohruh Saidzoda, is extremely close friends with the president’s son and likely future pretender to the crown, Rustam Emomali. That the security services went after Najmiddin Saidzoda is indicative of intra-elite squabbling, not actual concern about corruption.

Tajikistan: Student Medic Pays $16,000 Admission Bribe

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