Uzbekistan: Googoosha Now Facing Legal Troubles in Russia, Too?
International pressure is mounting on Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov: Already associated with two corruption investigations in Europe, now Russian media are reporting that an apartment she owns in Moscow has been seized by court order. The Lenta.ru website on November 2 quoted Interfax news agency as reporting that Karimova’s luxury apartment in downtown Moscow -- said to be worth $10 million -- had been seized as part of an antitrust case launched by Russian telecommunications company MTS after its business in Uzbekistan was appropriated this summer. Observers interpreted the unconfirmed report -- which cites an anonymous law-enforcement source and has not been officially confirmed -- as bad news for Karimova. “Leaks to the media about Karimova’s apartment are a sign to her that a war has started against her [in Russia],” Daniil Kislov, editor-in-chief of Fergananews.com, was quoted as saying by the Bfm.ru website. He pointed to the MTS conflict as the cause. This summer, Tashkent first suspended the operations of MTS’s Uzbekistan subsidiary O’zdunrobita (accusing it of legal violations that the company denied) and later ordered its assets seized, forcing MTS to write off over $1 billion in losses.Karimova has been linked to two corruption cases under way in Europe: A money-laundering investigation in Switzerland involving Uzbek nationals who (according to leaked documents) are her associates, and a Swedish investigation into allegations of suspicious payments by Swedish-Finnish telecoms firm TeliaSonera (which denies any wrongdoing) to businesswoman Gayane Avakyan, a Karimova associate also involved in the money-laundering probe.Karimova, who is an Uzbek diplomat as well as a fashion designer and pop star, has not responded to repeated requests from EurasiaNet.org for comment on the cases. But as pressure mounts in Europe over the corruption probes, news of possible legal troubles in Russia strike a further blow to Karimova’s international reputation.