Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of late Uzbek president Islam Karimov, won a court victory in Switzerland that allows her to try to unblock $350 million in frozen assets in the latest chapter of an almost $1 billion corruption scandal.
A federal appeal court upheld her claim that she was the rightful beneficiary of Takilant Ltd., a Gibraltar-based shell company that had the funds in a Swiss bank account frozen as part of a 2018 penal order, according to the verdict released Thursday.
The criminal order was issued against an individual the court identified only as B., a fellow Uzbek. B. was found guilty of forgery and money laundering for having created a series of companies in her name that were intended to hide the fact that Karimova was the real owner of the cash.
“This is an important victory for Gulnara Karimova, given federal prosecutors tried to force through the forfeiture of her assets by denying her the fundamental right to even take a position in this proceeding,” her lawyer, Gregoire Mangeat, said in an email.
She was found guilty of money laundering and extortion by Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court in March and sentenced to 13 years in prison, according to RFE/RL.
The Swiss decision is the latest in a case that goes back to 2012 when prosecutors began examining how hundreds of millions of dollars linked to Karimova and other Uzbeks ended up in Swiss banks. She has been under investigation for money laundering by the Swiss since 2013, linked to bribes allegedly paid by Western telecoms providers to win business in the central Asian nation.
“The Swiss prosecutors’ file obviously lacks evidence of any illicit origins of the $350 million,” Mangeat said, urging the funds be returned to his client.
The decision also provides legal cover for Karimova to reclaim the fortune before Switzerland decides to return it to Uzbekistan. Swiss prosecutors agreed in September to send 131 million Swiss francs ($146 million) to the Uzbek government that was linked to another person in the case, leaving about CHF650 million still frozen at multiple Swiss banks.
Jacques Marillon, B.’s lawyer, didn’t return messages seeking comment. The Swiss Attorney General’s office declined to comment.
Karimova’s fortunes have changed from the days when she was an Uzbek diplomat with a mansion in Geneva who moonlighted as a pop singer.
Mangeat said she has been detained for six years in her home country, without access to her family or lawyers for more than a year.
“Her detention in opaque conditions in Uzbekistan should not be used as an excuse to deprive her of her basic rights to a defense, which has now been recognized,” Mangeat said.