A Tashkent court has sent the late Uzbek autocrat Islam Karimov’s disgraced eldest daughter Gulnara Karimova to prison to serve out the remainder of her five-year sentence after she allegedly violated the terms of her house arrest, according to a statement made on March 6 by the Uzbek prosecutor’s office.
Karimova was for years seen by many as her father’s heir until she was discovered to be the central figure in international corruption investigations. Court documents compiled by Swedish prosecutors asserted last year that Karimova used tactics of intimidation to wrest control of a major telecoms operator and turn it into a cash cow that she could draw on at her whim. Leaked US cables on Karimova have labelled her a “robber baron” who sees herself as “above the law” labelling her as “the single most hated person in the country”. Four years ago, shortly after the bribery probe was launched, Karimova disappeared from the public eye and was placed under house arrest.
While still in favour, Karimova, 46, presented herself as a high-profile businesswoman, diplomat, fashion designer, and pop singer. She vanished from public view in 2014 after a reported dispute with her father, who ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist for 27 years until late 2016, when, after his death, he was succeeded by Shavkat Mirziyoyev who has been opening up the country.
Karimova’s daughter Iman posted several blurry photos on her Instagram account on March 5 that supposedly showed Karimova being taken away by Uzbek law enforcement agents from her home. Iman’s Instagram account said in a separate post that agents had arrived at the apartment at 7pm local time and dragged Karimova out after threatening her.
Little information about Karimova's status and health condition has been released by the Uzbek authorities since July 2017 when the prosecutor’s office revealed she had been sentenced in 2015 to five years of “restricted freedom” for embezzlement, extortion and tax evasion. Some rumours suggested that she was dead while other information suggested that she was already detained in a prison located outside Tashkent.
'Only alive thanks to computer files'
Her, son, Islam Karimov Jr. has claimed that his mother only remains alive thanks to computer files she removed from Uzbekistan prior to her detention that hold compromising materials on senior members of the government. That allegation chimes with her lawyer Gregoire Mangeat’s insistence in June this year that her security was not guaranteed, despite her being in good health.
Following Karimova’s removal from her residence, her lawyer reposted Iman’s photos on his Twitter account and wrote that “she was taken to an unknown place,”
“The Uzbek authorities continue to exert psychological and physical pressure on her to force her to withdraw her appeals and abandon all her rights and property in Switzerland,” Mangeat said. “We, her defence counsels, denounce these totally arbitrary methods. For several months now, we have been unsuccessfully asking the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland to commit an expert to establish the absence of the rule of law in Uzbekistan,” he added.
In December 2017, Karimova was added by the US to a list of 52 government-linked people from ex-Soviet countries subject to financial and travel restrictions that fall under the Magnitsky Act.
The Karimova-tied corruption probe led Swedish telecom carrier Telia to announce plans in 2016 to exit Eurasian markets and refocus on growing its core Nordic operations following years of investigations. The company has almost finalised its exit from these markets with only its Moldovan business left to sell.