The U.S. Justice Department took another big step in its investigation of bribes allegedly paid by Russian and Swedish companies to the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov in exchange for access to the country’s telecoms market.
The DOJ asked authorities in several European countries last week to freeze about $1 billion in assets tied to Gulnara Karimova and alleged bribes from VimpelCom and MTS of Russia and TeliaSonera of Sweden, the Wall Street Journal said.
Karimova, 43, pictured above, is a former socialite, fashion designer and model. She has been under house arrest in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent for corruption since September last year.
As many as 60 of her alleged associates have been convicted in Uzbekistan of financial fraud and sentenced to long prison terms.
Last month a federal judge in New York said the DOJ could seize $300 million allegedly linked to the Uzbek telecoms bribery scandal.
In a July 9 ruling, U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter allowed the DOJ to impound the funds held by Bank of New York Mellon Corp. in Ireland, Luxembourg, and Belgium, and in accounts at Clearstream Banking SA linked to the companies in Luxembourg.
Last year, prosecutors in Switzerland opened a money-laundering investigation into Karimova.
The investigation reportedly focused on allegations that TeliaSonera paid an intermediary — Gibraltar-registered Takilant — $320 million for 3G phone rights in Uzbekistan.
Takilant has been tied to Karimova.
Elena Lazareva is a former lawyer for Transparency International-Russia and alumna of the University of California School of Law. Prior to starting her legal career, Elena worked as a business journalist in Russia and received her degree in journalism from the Lomonosov Moscow State University.