Uzbekistan: Gulnara’s Future Uncertain After Exiting UN Post
The powerful, jet-setting daughter of Uzbekistan’s president is no longer her country’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. The accompanying loss of diplomatic immunity for Gulnara Karimova, who is embroiled in criminal investigations in Europe, could pave the way for her summons by prosecutors investigating hundreds of millions of dollars in telecoms-related corruptions charges that have her fingerprints all over them. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry informed the Swiss Embassy in Tashkent last week that Karimova was no longer the country's permanent representative to the UN, the BBC’s Uzbek Service reported on July 13. Switzerland's RTS public service broadcaster said her exit had resulted in Karimova's loss of diplomatic immunity. The reports did not clarify if she quit or was asked to leave, but RTS added that French authorities had searched Karimova's French properties last month at the request of Swiss prosecutors. Taking to Twitter, Karimova played down the loss of diplomatic immunity and blamed "other parties" for pressuring Swiss authorities, including Russian telecoms giant MTS, which had its Uzbek business expropriated last year: "[I]t's not true, but to know who and why spreading that [information on the loss of immunity] you can ask Swiss authorities and also other parties clearly involved in this PR 'action' from beginning like [R]ussian MTS!"Karimova also said she was not "so desperate" about her UN job because her "24/7" involvement in charity projects at home had become "more difficult" from her base in Geneva.An aspiring pop-diva and fashion designer who goes by the stage name Googoosha, Karimova has been linked to two separate corruption investigations in recent months. In December, Sweden's SVT television channel sparked a corruption investigation in Sweden over Nordic telecoms giant TeliaSonera’s acquisition of the rights to operate in Uzbekistan. An unidentified TeliaSonera executive told SVT that Karimova was central to any deal to enter the lucrative market, and that she personally would receive shares in TeliaSonera’s local subsidiary. The company denies negotiating with Karimova.In May, SVT presented leaked documents showing TeliaSonera had been asked on several occasions to pay multi-million-dollar bribes in return for protection from government agencies: Handwritten scribbles, complaints, and queries on the documents were attributed to Karimova, who allegedly personally dictated the terms for TeliaSonera's entry into Uzbekistan. In a possibly related case, last autumn Swiss prosecutors opened a money-laundering investigation into four Uzbek nationals believed linked to Karimova. The loss of Karimova's diplomatic immunity may prompt Swedish or Swiss prosecutors – or both – to summon her for questioning as a witness or suspect in the ongoing investigations. Last week Karimova was home in Tashkent celebrating her 41st birthday. As the noose closes around her in Europe, Tashkent will probably see whole lot more of Karimova in the coming months.