There is much consternation at the apparent decline of Gulnara Karimova’s multi-billion dollar company, Zeromax – which owns Uzbekistan’s most valuable economic assets.
Gulnara is of course the daughter and favoured successor of dictator “President” Islam Karimov. Zeromax is, in addition to interests encompassing gold, uranium, coal, cement, cotton, hotels, night clubs and sex-trafficking, the Pentagon’s major conduit for land supply to US forces in Afghanistan.
The immediate cause of the shutdown appears to be arrears of US $440 million on multi billion loans given to Zeromax by the Uzbek government. The loans were secured on assets which Zeromax obtained in the first place for next to nothing from the Uzbek government’s closed “privatisation” process, otherwise known as “let the President’s daughter have everything”. Zeromax has never made any attempt to repay any of the loans.
Outside analysts are speculating that the moves against Zeromax represent a power grab against Gulnara by Prime Minister Mirzayev (the man who ordered the specific Murder in Samarkand which became the title of my book).
That seems to me improbable. More likely Zeromax has simply outlived its usefulness as a vehicle. I suspect that it is repositioning, simply. Zeromax worked pretty well for several years as a front to hide the fact that the Karimovs were hiving off much of Uzbekistan’s economic production for personal benefit. The cover has been well and truly blown for a couple of years now and Zeromax was attracting jealousy. So it gets jettisoned like a snake shedding an old skin. I don’t think you’ll find Gulnara has lost a penny.
If Zeromax goes down, its debts will be written off, and I will be astonished if the productive assets do not still remain under the control of the Karimovs, in a new vehicle or variety of vehicles.
Much more worrying is further evidence of the reach of the Karimovs in Washington. Paid Karimov lobbyist and former lawyer for Zeromax, Carolyn Lamm, is now President of the American Bar Association – how sickening is that?
Presumably Lamm played a key role in the huge Pentagon supply contracts landed by Zeromax.
Almost worse, in the light of Karimov’s banning of all anti-Aids organisations and jailing of Maksim Popov,
is that Gulnara Karimova was feted at Cannes by Amfar – the American Foundation for Aids Research – as co-chair of their mega celebrity bash Cinema Against Aids at Cannes.
I several times telephoned AMFAR to ask how thay could justify celebrating Gulnara (two years running now), in the light of her regime’s purblind attitude to AIDS – not to mention the fact that the Karimov-Dostum narcotics trafficking racket is the main cause of AIDS in Uzbekistan. AMFAR refused to answer or return my calls.
I call for a boycott of AMFAR because of their continuing friendly links with the Uzbek regime. I do hope that people will continue to donate money for AIDS research, but to other less tainted charities.