Tajikistan’s highest court has over the past few weeks been convicting former top officials in the nation’s anti-corruption agency in cases that look to be not so much about graft as elite infighting.
Last week, RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported that Khurshed Jabborzoda, who had served as an officer with the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption before moving to the General Prosecutor’s Office, was sentenced by the Supreme Court to seven years in jail on charges of accepting especially large bribes, fraud and other related offenses.
Jabborzoda was reportedly detained in June on the basis of information provided by previously arrested associates. He worked in the anti-corruption agency until to moving the prosecutor’s office two years ago, Radio Ozodi reported on September 22.
Three days earlier, it was reported that the Supreme Court had sentenced the head of the investigative department, at the anti-corruption agency, Firuz Holmurodzoda, to 15 years in jail. Firdavs Niyozbadalov (AKA Firdavs Abdugafforzoda) , an investigator and son-in-law of former MP and secretary general of the National Security Council, Amirkul Azimov, was jailed for 13 years. The agency’s former head of investigations for Dushanbe, Amirsho Sultonzoda, got nine years. Others got slightly less severe sentences.
This is just the latest wave of convictions against leading figures in a state body that is indelibly associated in many people’s mind with the son of President Emomali Rahmon and current mayor of Dushanbe, Rustam Emomali. Emomali, who is often spoken about as a potential successor to his father, only left his job as head of the anti-corruption agency to take up the mayor’s post at the start of this years.
The most prominent victim of this sweep to date is Davlatbek Hairzoda, the former No. 2 in the graft-fighting body, who was reportedly sentenced to 10 1/2 years in jail in late July. To add insult to injury, Hairzoda’s son, Firuza, was around the same time fired from his job as prosecutor’s assistant in the northern Sughd region for possessing dual citizenship, which is not allowed for civil servants in Tajikistan.
Notably, the only available news about these convictions is being leaked out through trusted outlets — in this instance, Radio Ozodi — but there has been little to no public confirmation or comment. This is hardly surprising considering the sensitivities involved.
What is clear is that the entire campaign was led by the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, the successor agency to the KGB. For those who imagine that Tajik regime is a monolithic entity working in the interests of the ruling elite, this may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is that with the government having crushed all its actual opponents, the struggle is now raging among the various clans ostensibly running the country.
The ruling elite is to a large extent drawn from the region around the southern city of Kulob, but that is only part of a bigger picture. Within that regional grouping are even smaller spheres of loyalty. So while Rahmon’s family is drawn from the Dangara clan, there is another crew from the Farkhor district that includes an impressive array of officials, including GKNB chief Saymumin Yatimov and the influential and Russia-backed speaker of the Senate, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev. The Farkhor contingent is well represented in all areas of the nation’s security structures, making it a serious proposition.
If the elite infighting is indeed at the heart of all this, then the next evident stress point is what happens to Ubaidulloev, who was unceremoniously shuffled out of his Dushanbe mayor job earlier this year to make way for Emomali. But he still retains the Senate chairman post, which is formally important as it is he that would be constitutionally required to take over the reins in the event of President Rahmon being unable to fulfill his duties. The consensus view in Dushanbe is that Rahmon is eager to unseat Ubaidulloev and replace him with a trusted relative, mostly like his daughter, US-educated Ozoda Rahmon, who is currently chief of staff in the presidential administration.
One attempt to smoke Ubaidulloev out has already seemingly fallen through — for now. Shortly after Emomali took over as Dushanbe mayor, he ordered an investigation by the anti-corruption agency into suspected misuse of city funds under his predecessor. After a months-long probe, in early July, sources in the agency said their investigations had come to a close and that results were imminently to be presented to the government. Since then, not a peep has been heard about this case. And somewhat tellingly, as noted above, the anti-graft agency’s former head of investigations for Dushanbe, Amirsho Sultonzoda, has only in the past few days begun serving out his nine-year sentence.