| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Gulnara Karimova: Swiss say Uzbekistan ex-leader’s daughter ran huge crime network

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president, has been accused by Swiss prosecutors with operating an international crime ring that laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.

In the course of the investigation, the authorities seized assets totaling SFr 780 million (£700 million; $857 million).

Karimova has been imprisoned in Uzbekistan since 2014 after being convicted of corruption.

She disputes the bribery allegations, which relate to lucrative telecoms contracts.

She used to have a significant prominence in the Central Asian ex-Soviet state, wielding considerable power as the daughter of its despotic leader, Islam Karimov, who mercilessly suppressed dissent.

She had her own jewellery line, ran an entertainment television channel and released pop singles under the name Googoosha.

The Swiss indictment also targets an unnamed businessman who ran the Uzbek branch of a Russian telecoms firm.

Karimova is accused of taking bribes in return for access to Uzbekistan’s telecoms sector and of laundering the money through Swiss bank accounts and an elaborate network of accounts in other countries.

Her fake organisation was known as The Office. Besides fraud, the group allegedly used violence and intimidation in its operation.

In August the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) took control of three luxury properties worth more than £20m owned by Karimova.

The Swiss federal prosecutors’ indictment says the named beneficial owners of the accounts were “straw men” who concealed the fact that Karimova was the true beneficiary.

Karimova enjoyed protection as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, but lost that immunity in 2013 – at which point Switzerland was able to expand its investigation into her finances.

Her organisation also came under criminal investigation in Sweden, France, Norway, the Netherlands, the US and UK.