"The World's Worst Daughter"?
Across from the airport in Ferghana is a large banner featuring a young Uzbek woman, superimposed on a composite background of stock images -- tractors, dams, cotton fields, a school chemistry lab, a mosque. This is Gulnora Karimova, the First Daughter of Uzbekistan, whose father has given her a monopoly on, among other businesses (this according to Craig Murray), the printing of banners. Karimov himself apparently extracts a 10% cut of the world's largest open pit Muruntau gold mine (whose reserves at 6 million ounces of gold are worth about USD 8 billion), and takes delivery of the same as ingots air-freighted to his vaults in Rothschild bank in Switzerland; for everything else, the first dibs go to Gulnora. In hushed tones, they say she sits on top of the state/mafia nexus.
According to US diplomats in Uzbekistan, Karimova "bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business" in the country and is viewed as a "robber baron". Granted diplomatic status by her father, Gulnara lives much of the time in Geneva, where her holding company, Zeromax, is registered. Gulnara denies claims that she owns Zeromax. And no evidence is still available to confirm that she actually owned that Company or had any connection to it. Karimova was claimed to control Uzdunrobita, Uzbekistan's national mobile telephone network, as well as the country's healthcare, and media sectors. However since June 2007 Uzdunrobita’s 100% stake belongs to Mobile Telesystems OJSC (NYSE: MBT), the largest mobile phone operator in Russia and the CIS. It is said that she has financial interests worth $600 million in retail, nightclubs, and tourism which is denied by Gulnora who attributes these belongings to her family members and friends In December 2009, the Swiss magazine "Bilan" in its list of the richest people in Switzerland assessed Gulnora Karimova to be one of the ten richest women in the country.
The businessmen and proto-capitalists of Ferghana, like the owner of the Yodgorlik factory, have the look people who have made their peace with authorities, and are indeed connected well to the government. Foreign cars are charged 100% import tax, and in any case Yusufjon Mamayusupov's USD 80000 Benz (see Clouds Asleep on Silk, below) represents a lifetime's salary for the average Uzbek. Wealth attracts scrutiny, and demands either to contribute to, or become a part of, the mafia state.
Here is a story about those who fall foul of the state/mafia nexus:
[The Adilovs] "were known in Kokand as wealthy, noble and respected family. Rakhimzhon Adilov was holding the managerial positions in law enforcement bodies of Uzbekistan. His wife Rakhbarkhon Adilova was running a small shop that step by step turned into the chain stores. Their two daughters – Iroda and Mukhaye – were no less successful: Iroda graduated from Frunze polytechnic institute and worked at Kokand meat factory. Mukhaye finished teacher’s college in Kokand; she also married rich businessman from Pakistan.
The wealth of Adilov’s family produced jealousy and willingness to expropriate their property. In the opinion of Adilov’s, the important fact was that the Interior Ministry supervisor for Ferghana Oblast Shukur Ruzmatov wanted to marry Mukhaye, but was denied. The serious problems still had to be faced later.
According to Iroda, in 1994 the Kokand meat factory became the joint stock company. It was defined that 25% of shares must be bought by foreign investors, 25% must be offered at the market, 25% must be owned by staff, 25% must be owned by supplier companies.
While staff members gained 25% of stocks, the rest 75% were sold to influential mafia boss Ibragim Tazhibaev. In 1997 the CEO of the meat factory was fired because "he paid low dividends". Iroda was offered to take over this position but she said "no". One year later the meat plant was already headed by Ibragim Tazhbaev that, according to Adilova, "immediately started fraud operations, also replacing all highly qualified experts by his relatives, having no idea about the job".
Later on Tazhbaev proposed Iroda to attract Pakistani businessman as the foreign investor. As a result, in 2000 Ali Shah Izhad Akhmad Ali Shah – the husband of Mukhaye – bought Tazhibaev’s stake for $150 000; Mukhaye even offered one million sum as the security deposit, which became the reason of the conflict.
Receiving one million, Tazhibaev changed his mind and did not return the security deposit. After interference of Pakistan’s Ambassador, Tazhibaev returned money but fired Iroda. Iroda started addressing the complaints to various agencies and filed a suit. In response, Tazhibaev decided to get rid of Adilova.
"On October 31, 2003 my 13-year old son was kidnapped. Friends of Tazhibaev threatened to kill him, forcing me to "sell" my stocks to Tazhbaev and sign the resignation letter", said Iroda Adilova. She wrote an application but got no response from police. Iroda started writing about the despotism of police structures in the Ferghana valley. Later on the family learned from Sultan Tashpulatov that police received "instruction from above" to "expropriate the property and imprison all family members".
Mukhaye was arrested in 2006.
Mukhaye Adilova said that during 27 days in row she was being tortured and raped by the law enforcement officers, "blessed" by top authorities.
"In pre-trial detention center 5-6 men were raping me every day. I was injected something (the doctor said it was heroin) so that I could stay up. I got pregnant, but had miscarriage", Mukhaye Adilova shared.
It has to be mentioned that the relatives of Mukhaye were never allowed to see her in the detention center. They put best efforts to take her out. They sold most of their assets and gave money to the investigator Alisher Khuzhamkulov and Shukur Ruzmatov, the "supervisor" for Ferghana Oblast. However, these efforts were useless.
Desperate Iroda Adila wrote complaints, where she informed that Asma Sultanova “was illegally importing gold sand from Chechnya to Uzbekistan”, about mafia between Tazhbaev and Kokand’s security officers and Shukur Ruzmatova, “the patron” for criminal business in the Ferghana Oblast.
Later on Iroda and Rakhbarkhon became the target of number of honeytrap situations, organized by Asma Sultanova under the patronage of local law enforcement and judicial structures. As a result, they were sentenced to 8 and 6 years of prison respectively on the following charges: false testimony, false information, blackmailing and other. Nazhot, the younger son of the Adilov’s family, was outside of Uzbekistan. Upon his return home in 2008, he was sentenced to 6 years of jail under trumped-up case.
Craig Murray reports meeting Gulnora for the first time at a British Embassy cultural event in honor of the Queen's birthday. She is 'low-makeup', girlishly hanging on to the UK Ambassador's every word; a provincial Uzbek governor, drunk, having no idea she is Karimov's daughter, approaches the devotchka demanding she translate for him, clearly thinking this leggy beauty is an assistant of some sort. She giggles, asking Murray coyly if she might make a good translator. The lout is led away gently, never to be heard of again.
In a cable sent by the US Embassy in Tashkent to Washington (released by Wikileaks), it was claimed Gulnora Karimova is the single-most hated person in Uzbekistan:
Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way. Even with the press campaign to improve her image, Gulnora is continuing to do business, pressuring and shutting down competitors. This charm offensive will not likely make her more popular; she remains the single most hated person in the country.
As part of the makeover, she recorded a music video. Reviewing this opus, The Guardian wrote in a piece titled "Princess Of The Uzbeks":
Martial arts black belt, Harvard graduate, jewellery designer, businesswoman. Her father may be a brutal dictator, but the official list of Gulnara Karimova's achievements is as long as your arm. Now the glamorous daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has added a new talent to the list with the release of her first music video. Unutma Meni (Don't Forget Me) features the 33-year-old brunette under the stage name GooGoosha - apparently her father's name for her - cavorting in a cartoon wonderland where she travels to a secluded castle and a tropical island in a limousine that floats through the air.
Commentators say the video - showing repeatedly on Uzbekistan's domestic equivalent of MTV - is part of a campaign to promote Ms Karimova as a potential successor to her father, whose term of office finishes at the end of next year.
Despite the stumbling block of promoting a woman as leader in a traditional Muslim society, Ms Karimova is thought to be the only person who can protect the assets of her father's family and cronies.
However, critics suggest the new song will do little to raise her appeal. "This is exactly comparable to the emperor Nero playing his harp and everyone having to cheer," said Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was sacked after exposing the Karimov regime's torture of political opponents.
The video is below. Here is Gulnora's website peddling her own line of designer jewelry; and here is the cloying (paid for by Gulnora's PR) interview in Forbes magazine.