Feds Seize $300M in Uzbek Bribery Scheme

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Following reports accusing the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president of accepting bribes, U.S. prosecutors moved to seize $300 million allegedly linked to an international money laundering conspiracy in federal court here.
     In a 54-page forfeiture complaint, New York prosecutors refrain from identifying the “close relative of the President of Uzbekistan” who also “held several positions in the Uzbek government” during the seven-year plot they allege.
     However, Swedish investigative journalists uncovered documents that they reported showed Gulnara Karimova receiving “upward of” precisely that amount in bribes from Scandinavian telecoms.
     Radio Free Europe trumpeted those findings in a May 22, 2013, report.
     The daughter of Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimova, Gulnara served as the country’s representative to the United Nations between 2008 and 2011, and also its ambassador to Spain within that time frame.
     She held various political and diplomatic positions for more than a decade before that period.
     New York prosecutors say that “at least two international telecommunications companies, Mobile Telesystems OJSC (MTS) and Vimpelcom LTD, made more than $500 million in corrupt payments to shell companies beneficially owned” by the unnamed Uzbekistani official between 2004 and 2011.
     “The corruption proceeds were laundered in a complicated series of transactions, including the purchase of investment portfolios and assets in Ireland, Luxembourg, and Belgium,” the complaint states. “This money laundering activity included transferring funds into and out of correspondent bank accounts at financial institutions in the United States.”
     The government wants to seize money held mostly in international Bank of New York Mellon and First Global Investments accounts.
     The complaint is signed by Marie Dalton of the Department of Justice’s asset forfeiture and money laundering section.
     U.S. diplomatic cables leaked published by WikiLeaks detail Gulnara’s dealings with MTS in a cable describing her as a “robber baron” and the “single most hated person in the country.”
     The Guardian reported that the United States tries to keep her father “sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN).”
     The telegram was one of hundreds of thousands leaked by former U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence for the disclosures.

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