Monday, March 13, 2023 – A new report by Freedom For Eurasia study has revealed how Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Islam Karimov, who ruled Uzbekistan as president of the central Asian state from 1989 until his death in 2016 spent $240m (£200m) on properties from London to Hong Kong acting as a diplomat for her country.
Gulnara Karimova used UK companies to buy homes and a jet with funds obtained through bribery and corruption, the report says adding that accounting firms in London and the British Virgin Islands acted for UK companies involved in the deals.
The report says the ease with which Karimova obtained UK property was “concerning”.
The report says there is no suggestion that those acting for the companies linked to her were aware of any connection to her nor that the source of funds could have been suspicious.
For a time Gulnara Karimova was tipped to succeed her father. She appeared in pop videos under the stage name “Googoosha”, ran a jewellery company and served as ambassador to Spain.
But then in 2014 she disappeared from public view. It later emerged she had been detained on corruption charges while her father was still in power and she was sentenced in December 2017. In 2019 she was sent to prison for breaching the terms of her house
Prosecutors accused her of being part of a criminal group that controlled assets of more than $1bn (£760m) in 12 countries, including the UK, Russia and United Arab Emirates. “The Karimova case is one of the largest bribery and corruption cases of all time,” says Tom Mayne, one of the researchers on the Freedom For Eurasia report and a research fellow at the University of Oxford.
However, Karimova and her associates had already sold some of the property allegedly acquired with corrupt funds.
Freedom For Eurasia researched property and land registry records to identify at least 14 properties which it says were purchased before she was arrested, with allegedly suspicious funds, in various countries, including the UK, Switzerland, France, Dubai and Hong Kong.
The report to be published on Tuesday 14 March, titled Who Enabled the Uzbek Princess?, focuses on five properties bought in and around London, now worth an estimated £50m – including three flats in Belgravia, just west of Buckingham Palace, a house in Mayfair and an £18m Surrey manor house with a private boating lake.
Two of the Belgravia flats were sold in 2013 before Karimova was detained. In 2017, the house in Mayfair, the Surrey mansion and a third flat in Belgravia were frozen by the Serious Fraud Office.
Karimova’s boyfriend, Rustam Madumarov, and others now alleged to be associates of hers were listed in official documents as the “beneficial owners” – a legal term for the person who ultimately is in control – of companies based in the UK, Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands. But the report says they were just proxies for Karimova, in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars.
Accountancy services for two UK companies linked to Karimova – Panally Ltd and Odenton Management Ltd – were reportedly provided by SH Landes LLP, a firm formerly located in London.
In late July 2010, SH Landes sought to register or acquire another company with Madumarov named as the beneficial owner.
When asked at the time about the source of his funds, SH Landes replied: “We believe that the question regarding his personal wealth is not relevant in this situation.” This was seemingly because the money to buy the jet were not being provided by Madumarov out of his personal funds.