Swiss indict daughter of former Uzbek president in bribery, money laundering case involving millions

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GENEVA (AP) — Swiss federal prosecutors have indicted the daughter of a former president of Uzbekistan on charges including money laundering, bribery and participation in a criminal network that used “violence and intimidation.” Authorities have already frozen or confiscated hundreds of millions of Swiss francs (dollars) in the case.

The attorney general's office said Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of former President Islam Karimov, was indicted along with the former director-general of the Uzbek subsidiary of a Russian telecommunications company for crimes allegedly committed between 2005 and 2013.

That was during Karimov's tenure: He led the central Asian country for more than a quarter-century until his death in September 2016. His daughter once served at the U.N. office in Geneva, and benefited from diplomatic immunity.

Karimova has faced a series of trials after a first conviction in Uzbekistan eight years ago. She was initially ordered to serve her sentence at her daughter’s home, but a 2019 court ruling placed her behind bars for violating the terms of her confinement. She is now serving a 13-year sentence for organizing a criminal group, extortion and embezzlement.

Culminating a criminal probe that was opened over a decade ago, the Swiss prosecutors announced the indictment on Thursday and said Karimova allegedly developed and ran a crime ring known as “The Office” that involved several dozen people and multiple companies.

The network began its operations in Switzerland in 2005 “in order to conceal the capital originating from its criminal dealings in Swiss bank accounts and safes and by purchasing real estate,” the Swiss prosecutors said.

Owners of some accounts in Switzerland were actually “straw men” conjured up to cover up the fact that Karimova was the real beneficiary of the accounts, the prosecutors said.

"‘The Office’ conducted its criminal activities as a professional business, complying with mandatory regulations and observing a strict allocation of tasks, while also resorting to violence and intimidation," they said in a statement.

The telecoms industry was one of Uzbekistan's most profitable sectors starting in the early 2000s, and foreign firms that sought to enter were required to pay Karimova bribes — through “The Office” — to gain access to it, the prosecutors said.

Swiss authorities have frozen more than 440 million Swiss francs ($483 million) in assets in connection with the case, the prosecutors said. They already confiscated more than 340 million francs after four people were convicted between 2018 and 2021 of money laundering and forgery of documents as part of the investigation.

The prosecutors said the confiscated funds were being held “with a view to being returned to Uzbekistan.”

A criminal probe is continuing into the Swiss private bank Lombard Odier and others on suspicion of money laundering and failing to properly monitor financial transactions in connection with the case, the prosecutors said.

The case has led to criminal proceedings in other countries including Britain, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

Last year, Swiss authorities announced a deal to return some funds to Uzbekistan that were part of the 340 million francs that had already been confiscated.