The Guardian has a stash of cables up and an article summarizing -- not surprisingly -- the antics of President Islam Karimov's notorious daughter Gulnara Karimova -- and interestingly -- just how much static U.S. leaders get from President Karimov when they try to support human rights in Uzbekistan.
The cable writer adds for emphasis: "We have no polling data to support that statement, but we stand by it."
Journalists have often reported rumors of Karimova's extensive business dealings with corporations close to the state, particularly Zeromax, the conglomerate now seized by the government after going bankrupt. This January 28, 2005 cable comes closer to any other known source to making the connection:
According to various reports from industry insiders, Gulnora Karimova, the President's daughter, is interested in taking over a new cellular company with U.S. investment, as well as Uzbektelekom, the monopoly state- owned telecommunications company. She also reportedly has agreed with local mafia boss, XXXXXXXXXXXX, to take over his share of ZeromaxXXXXXXXXXXXX. In an ironic twist, if this comes to pass, it would leave Gulnora in control of Coca-Cola - her ex-husband's former company.
"ZeromaxXXXXXXXXXXXX" is likely a reference to a subsidiary -- these are now being transferred or sold off.
Uzbekistan is now in debt to German companies for 130 million euro after a construction spending spree by Zeromax, a large Swiss-registered conglomerate seized by the government earlier this year.
Ferghana.ru, the independent online Central Asian news site, published a report November 5 on how Tashkent became beholden to Berlin -- a fact that came to light because a German trade official publicly expressed unhappiness.
On October 29, officials kicked off German Week, a celebration of German culture, education and trade in Uzbekistan, culminating in an economic forum which was supposed to showcase growing Uzbek-German cooperation and highlight the dynamic trade turnover, $469.4 million in 2009.
But Bernard Duch, advisor to Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, announced that Uzbekistan was in debt 130 million euro to German companies for the construction of three buildings and delivery of oil products. The buildings include the Palace of Forums, a residence for the president, and a stadium for the Bunyodkor soccer team.
Duch told ferghana.ru that Germany "cannot agree with the government of Uzbekistan that this is a normal situation." The debt is 40 percent of the trade balance and payments have been delayed, which has harmed relations, he said. He likened Tashkent to a stoplight that was "now turning red, then turning green" and urged Uzbekistan to give a steady green light to German businessmen.
The reason Germany is making a claim to the Uzbek government is because Zeromax was seized by the state-run Uzbekneftegas, and is alleged to have inherited claims against it. The Palace of Forums cost 60 million euro; the presidential residence was 15 million euro, and the remainder was for the sports stadium and petroleum products -- all deals made by Zeromax affiliates.
The legendary former Brazilian football coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is leaving his well-compensated post in the Uzbekistan soccer club Bunyodkor and is looking to return to either Europe or his homeland, he told Reuters today.
Last June, Scolari was unveiled as the new manager of Bunyodkor, Uzbekistan’s richest soccer club, which has been cited in world media for its lucrative player contracts.
Uzbekistan seemed rather farflung for a coach of Scolari's renown -- he was famous for having led Brazil to World Cub victory in 2002. The 61-year-old coach was believed to have signed an 18-month contract originally last year, but told Reuters the club needs to cut costs and wants to break off his contract.
Last April, Bunyodkor benefited from a huge tax break extended to Uzbek soccer clubs. The tax exemption covered customs duties on imports, construction materials and other fees except for social insurance payments. Although the old stadium was only one year old at the time, last year Bunyodkov felt flush enough to start construction of a new $150 million 35,000-seat stadium. It was supposed to open in March.