Customs officials in Uzbekistan say they have stopped 20 luxury cars stolen in Europe from transiting to neighboring Tajikistan over the past year.
The vehicles, including BMWs and Range Rovers, are worth approximately $1.5 million, the State Customs Committee said in a January 4 statement. Tajik citizens had shipped the cars by rail from the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania with forged registration documents. According to the customs service, Interpol has confirmed the vehicles were stolen.
The announcement comes two weeks after German officials alleged that associates and relatives of Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rakhmon, are driving some 200 luxury cars swiped from the streets of Germany. Investigators said they traced many of the vehicles with their built-in GPS location-tracking systems.
That purloined autos are plying Tajikistan’s roads has long been an open secret in Dushanbe, the capital. Western officials there often complain that their Tajik counterparts are unwilling to address the problem. Indeed, mounting frustration may have led officials in Berlin to leak the embarrassing accusations.
Tajik authorities deny the German accusations. A spokesman for Rakhmon called them “provocative and untrue.” The Foreign Ministry said any blame must rest with transit countries that allow the cars to pass.
Enter Uzbekistan, which thus could be defending itself. But with enduring water and border disputes, and personal enmity between the two countries’ long-serving strongmen, it’s basically official policy in Tashkent to do anything to challenge Tajikistan’s leadership and thwart its ambitions. Mocking Dushanbe could be seen as part of Tashkent’s passive-aggressive policy.
Both countries have grounds to sling mud at each other when it comes to officials’ scrupulousness.
Tajikistan ranks 154 out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index. Uzbekistan ranks 168.