“Pecunia non olet (“Money does not smell”),” staff tells you at a museum dedicated to the history of toilets in Kyiv, Ukraine.
But the motto, which Roman Emperor Vespasian supposedly said after imposing a tax on public urinals, is only another part of the toilet trivia and bathroom paraphernalia on display at this unusual exhibit.
A white sedan pulls up at a busy intersection in downtown Tashkent. The driver lowers the window, a man loitering nearby approaches, the driver hands over a fistful of $100 bills, the man hands over a black plastic bag and the car pulls away.
The US government wants to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in allegedly illicit funds that American prosecutors contend enriched a “close relative” of Uzbekistan’s strongman president, Islam Karimov.
A forfeiture complaint filed in US federal court in New York seeks the recovery of $300 million in assets “involved in an international conspiracy to launder corrupt payments” made in Uzbekistan’s telecoms sector, according to a copy of the complaint sent to EurasiaNet.org by the Department of Justice, which filed the case on June 29.
It alleges that illicit payments were made by two telecoms companies, Russia’s MTS and Amsterdam-based VimpelCom, to curry influence and secure favorable decisions from Uzbekistan’s government to operate in the lucrative telecommunications sector.
The alleged beneficiary is not named, but is identified as “GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL A,” and is further characterized as “a close relative of the President of Uzbekistan.” The unnamed beneficiary “held several positions in the Uzbek government” during the period in question (2004-2011), according to the complaint.
Gulnara Karimova, the president’s eldest daughter who is under house arrest in Uzbekistan on corruption charges, has previously been named as a suspect in a money-laundering probe in Switzerland involving payments in Uzbekistan’s telecoms sector. During the period in question, she held government positions, including as deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Spain and the United Nations in Geneva.
The lawsuit names two Karimova associates, and two shell companies they allegedly operated to funnel illicit funds: Gayane Avakyan, owner of Takilant, and Rustam Madumarov, owner of Expoline.
There is a bleak mood hanging over the editorial office of the Nakanune.kz website these days. The news site, which has won plaudits for its hard-hitting coverage in Kazakhstan’s beleaguered media environment, has run afoul of the country’s judicial system.
Authorities in Azerbaijan assert that playing host to the European Games marks the emergence of a self-assured nation capable of staging a major international sporting event. But some residents of the host city, the Azerbaijani capital Baku, are reserving judgment. To them, the accuracy of such statements will be determined by developments after the closing ceremonies on June 28.
One year ago, Georgia signed an historic free-trade deal with the European Union that many saw as the ticket for finally pulling the country’s largely agricultural economy out of its post-Soviet slump. But so far, how fast that deal can help transform Georgian agriculture is open to doubt.
As the Georgian capital Tbilisi struggles to recover from a calamitous flash flood, a political storm is brewing – one in which incumbent authorities are trying to blame their predecessors for shortcomings exposed by the tragedy.