Uzbekistan: Prosecutors Question First Daughter's Associates
Prosecutors in Uzbekistan say that they have summoned for questioning associates of the president's controversial daughter, businesswoman and aspiring pop star Gulnara Karimova. It is unclear if the investigation concerns Karimova directly, but it follows a spectacular public fall for the woman once believed in line to succeed her aging father. In a statement late February 17, the Prosecutor General's Office in Tashkent said that Rustam Madumarov, Gayane Avakyan and Ekaterina Klyuyeva had been summoned for questioning as part of a criminal investigation into tax evasion, concealing foreign currency and other crimes opened against executives of Terra Group, Prime Media and Gamma Promotion. Terra Group is believed to have been Karimova’s media holding company, overseeing her TV and radio stations and glossy magazines until authorities shut them down last October. That happened during a public conflict with her sister, mother and the head of Uzbekistan's secret police, the SNB, much of which played out on Twitter. Until the struggle spilled into the open, Karimova had been seen as a potential successor to her brutal 76-year-old father, Islam Karimov, who tolerates no dissent and does not discuss his plans for succession. Karimova, 41, is also a fashion designer and a former diplomat, though as a businesswoman she appears to have made the most enemies. Purported US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks show American diplomats back in 2005 allegedly calling her a “robber baron” and “the single most hated person in the country.” Avakyan was allegedly Karimova's confidante who, Swedish investigative journalists reported in September 2012, served as an intermediary between Nordic telecom giant TeliaSonera and Karimova when the company allegedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to Avakyan’s one-woman Gibraltar-registered Takilant Limited for the rights to enter the Uzbek telecom market. TeliaSonera denies wrongdoing, but an audit found negligence and several senior officials have left the company. Avakyan is also the chief suspect in a separate money laundering case linked to Karimova in Switzerland. Madumarov, the reported owner of Tashkent’s Nirvana chain of record shops, is believed to have been Karimova live-in boyfriend. In November, shortly after prosecutors shut down the shops, she tweeted that he had been detained. Adding a bit of extra color to the story, the website of Russia's often-hysterical, Kremlin-controlled RT television channel reported on February 18 that the three had been hanging out in Karimova's Tashkent apartment when a swat team, led by the head of the presidential guard, descended from the rooftop to search Karimova's seventh-floor apartment and detain the three. RT does not say when the raid happened. Karimova, who is active on Twitter, has been silent since yesterday, when she wrote, "Life's too short to notice all the shit."