Daughter of Dead Uzbek Strongman Indicted in Record Bribery Case

MANHATTAN (CN) – Completing a trilogy of foreign bribery cases Thursday, U.S. prosecutors indicted the daughter of the former president of Uzbekistan and announced a record-breaking $850 million settlement with a Russian telecom.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said that the civil and criminal actions unsealed today top the annals of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases, representing the largest bribe received by an individual and the largest penalty under that statute paid to the United States.

Leading off the indictment is Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the late dictator Islam Karimov, who ruled the former Soviet satellite of Uzbekistan for almost exactly 25 years to the day he died in September 2016.

Prosecutors claim that the Moscow-based Mobile TeleSystems paid Karimova more than $850 million in bribes, a scheme orchestrated by Bekhzod Akhmedov, the former director of the company’s subsidiary.

Both 46-year-old Karimova and Akhmedov, a 44-year-old living in Russia, remain at large.

The 36-page indictment made public today accuses them of reaping hundreds of millions in bribes from three global telecoms between 2001 and 2012.

“This is the third installment in a trilogy of cases arising from an almost $1 billion bribery scheme that reached the highest echelons of the Uzbekistan government and was orchestrated by some of the largest telecommunications companies in the world,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. 

The other two installments refer to settlements paid by the Dutch-based VimpelCom, which agreed to pay $795 million to settle corruption charges in February 2016, and the Stockholm-based Telia Company AB, which entered into a $965 million deal a year later.

“By funneling multimillion-dollar bribe payments through the U.S. financial system, the companies and individual defendants corruptly tried to tip the global economy in their favor and line their own pockets,” Berman said. “But they are now paying the price.”

Alexey Kornya, president of the Russian telecom MTS, described the settlement as being in the company’s best interests.

“MTS has systematically and pro-actively developed its current anti-corruption compliance framework in line with international best practices within a dedicated compliance division since 2012,” Kornya said in a statement.

Represented by Skadden Arps, MTS accepted responsibility for the corruption scheme as part of a deferred prosecution agreement that also subjects it to oversight by an independent compliance monitor. 

Leaked cables published by WikiLeaks show that a former U.S. ambassador called Karimova “something of a robber baron” and the “single most hated person in the country.”

In between stints as a United Nations representative, ambassador and politician, Karimova tried to burnish her reputation as a pop star with the stage name Googoosha, but she failed to endear herself to the Uzbek public in her bid to become her father’s successor, according to the cable.

Uzbekistan is currently ruled by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who was anointed to the position after Karimov’s death and then elected in a contest that The Economist described as a sham.

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