The state anticorruption agency in Tajikistan has detained three major debtors to a recently liquidated bank, raising vague prospects that long-suffering accountholders might get some of their savings back.
Tojprombank was officially wound down in February, but many customers are unable to get a hold of their money as the lender is still owed millions by delinquent businesses.
According to the latest information available, the bank still has to pay out around $62 million. At the moment, Tojprombank’s administrators are cashing out accountholders in dribs and drabs — paying them 1,000 somoni ($112) per month.
But signs that pressure is being applied to big-time delinquent debtors suggests that progress may lie ahead. A source at the failed bank has told EurasiaNet.org that one of the people detained is a prominent businessman in Tajikistan’s cotton industry, Jamshed Abdulov. Two companies controlled by Abdulov — Cotton Textile and Olim Textile — have debts before Tojprombank amounting to $4.4 million. (EurasiaNet.org previously reported that Abdulov owned $3.2 million, but newly obtained documents show that the outstanding sum is actually greater).
Cotton Textile and Olim Textile are subsidiaries of another entity, Olim Karimzod, a cotton brokerage. Cotton farmers in Tajikistan have no mechanism whereby they can sell their crop directly on the international market, so they are forced to go through intermediaries, many of which are said to be controlled by President Emomali Rahmon’s brother-in-law, Hasan Asadullozoda.
Asadullozoda’s relations with the rest of the ruling family have not always been smooth, so the fact that the squeeze is being put on businesses linked to him are also indicative of another bout of internal feuding.
Another Tojprombank debtor is Ilhom Sharbatov — also known as Ilhom Komandir, a nickname earned during the civil war of the 1990s. Subsidiaries of Sharbatov’s Tamer INB, another cotton broker, owe $1.5 million.
The third big-time debtor now in custody is Turabek Kanoatov, who owes Tojprombank $826,000. It is not known to EurasiaNet.org what line of business Kanoatov was engaged in or for what purposes he used the loan.
According to internal Tojprombank documents obtained by EurasiaNet.org earlier this year, the bulk of the money owed to the collapsed lender — 219 million somoni ($25 million) — is held by just 12 companies. As EurasiaNet.org's research has also revealed, most of those delinquent debtors are companies registered to Tojprombank itself — suggesting that the bank was mainly engaged in lending money to its own subsidiaries.
Tojprombank was founded in October 1995 as an all-purpose retail bank. The controlling shares of the company were held by Jamshed Ziyoyev. Signs the lender was in distress began to emerge in 2015. In the middle of 2016, Ziyoyev was removed as head of the bank, which was placed under administration. In December, the National Bank declared it was refinancing Tojprombank to the tune of 450 million somoni ($56 million) and reappointed Ziyoyev to his old job and ordered him to restore the lender to health. The bailout money was raised through the emission of somoni-denominated sovereign bonds that were converted into liquid cash by the National Bank.
But then two months later, the National Bank performed yet another about-face and decided to shutter Tojprombank, together with another recipient of bailout funds, Fononbank.
EurasiaNet.org sources have indicated that Ziyoyev is now under criminal investigation and is understood to be in Tajikistan, busy selling off his assets.
Reimbursing Tojprombank customers is ostensibly a top government priority, although progress is wanting. The government issued fresh instructions on December 14 for all the country’s law enforcement agencies to work in concert to hunt down every last cent of unpaid debts. That followed pledges made by President Rahmon in December 2016 that Tojprombank accountholders would get all their money back — a vow that has so far gone unfulfilled.