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Feds chase $300 million of Karimova loot

Image courtesy of the BBC via YouTubeA federal judge in New York last week said the DOJ can seize $300 million allegedly linked to the telecoms scandal involving “a relative of Uzbekistan’s president.”

Journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered documents last year appearing to show $300 million in bribes to Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in exchange for access to the country’s telecoms market.​

A report Monday from RFE/RL said,

In a July 9 ruling in New York City, U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter allowed the government to impound the funds held by Bank of New York Mellon Corp. in Ireland, Luxembourg, and Belgium and in Clearstream Banking SA accounts linked to the companies in Luxembourg.

The DOJ alleged the money is linked to an international money-laundering conspiracy involving payments to  “Government Official A” — identified as a relative of Uzbekistan’s president.

In April this year, the United States asked Swedish authorities to freeze more than $30 million in assets linked to an investigation into possible bribery of Uzbek officials and money laundering.

A letter from the U.S. Justice Department said investigations turned up evidence that the Russian-Norwegian company VimpelCom, Russian-owned Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS), and Swedish-Finnish company TeliaSonera “paid bribes to Uzbek officials to obtain mobile telecommunications business in Uzbekistan.”

Karimova, 42, 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.

According to RFE/RL, the DOJ alleged that Vimpel and MTS “used a web of shell companies and phony consulting contracts to funnel more than $500 million in corrupt payments to shell companies owned by the official in exchange for access to Uzbekistan’s telecommunications market.”

Last year, prosecutors in Switzerland opened a money-laundering investigation into Karimova.

The investigation reportedly focused on allegation that TeliaSonera paid an intermediary — Gibraltar-registered Takilant — $300 million for 3G phone rights in Uzbekistan.

Takilant has been tied to Karimova.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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