Uzbekistan: Swiss Confirm Laundering Probe After Reports of Googoosha Protest
The Swiss Attorney General’s Office has confirmed that a money-laundering investigation has been opened against four Uzbek citizens, two of whom are under arrest in Switzerland.“The Attorney General’s Office (OAG) confirms the arrest of two Uzbek citizens at Geneva,” a spokeswoman told EurasiaNet.org by e-mail, specifying that the arrests were made “due to a criminal investigation of the OAG.”“At this stage, the investigation is conducted in respect of money laundering and against four Uzbek citizens,” the Attorney General’s Office said. None of the individuals were named, but the confirmation of the money-laundering probe came in response to a query filed by EurasiaNet.org following local media reports about the arrest of two well-connected Uzbek citizens in Geneva that had, according to press speculation, sparked a protest last month at the Swiss Embassy in Tashkent. Regional news site Centrasia.ru reported that the embassy was picketed by a group of 10-11 people carrying placards saying “Shame on Switzerland!” in protest against the detention of two Uzbek staff members of Coca-Cola Uzbekistan, named as Aliyer Irgashev and Shahruh Sabirov (the latter was named in other sources as Farruh Saberov). Citing “sources,” Centrasia.ru suggested the protest was organized by a foundation run by Gulnara Karimova, eldest daughter of President Islam Karimov -- the Forum of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan (Fund Forum for short). Neither the foundation nor Coca-Cola Uzbekistan have responded to emails requesting comment sent in August.The Swiss Attorney General’s Office did not name any individuals, but denied earlier reports that the two arrests were made in a bank. It said the two Uzbek citizens were arrested on July 30. Local media reports connected Karimova (who sings under the stage name Googoosha) to the arrests since she was once married to former Coca-Cola Uzbekistan executive Mansur Maqsudi. After their acrimonious divorce “Karimova assumed control of Coca-Cola's Uzbek venture […] and he and his business partners were expelled from Uzbekistan,” the independent Uznews.net said in a report last month. The confirmation of the existence of a money-laundering probe is sure to whet the appetites of the curious, but the Swiss authorities remain tight-lipped. “No further information is being provided at present in order not to prejudice the ongoing investigations,” the Attorney General’s Office said.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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