(Bloomberg) -- The Harvard-educated daughter of Uzbekistan’s president and several of her closest associates ignored a U.S. government demand to turn over more than $550 million held in Swiss bank accounts linked to an international money-laundering conspiracy.
The U.S. Justice Department now wants Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and the others to be held responsible for the payment.
Prosecutors made the request in a letter to a Manhattan federal court judge on Thursday, saying Karimova and the group failed to respond to a civil forfeiture complaint filed against three bank accounts in February. That complaint didn’t name Karimova, referring only to corrupt payments made to “Government Official A, a close relative of a high-ranking Uzbek government official.” The new request names her and others described as a close associate and a former boyfriend.
The case is linked to a wide-ranging bribery probe into Amsterdam-based mobile operator VimpelCom Ltd., which in February announced a $795 million settlement with the U.S. and Dutch authorities relating to its subsidiary in Uzbekistan. It’s the second-largest penalty levied for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribing officials to win business. Karimova was not charged in the case.
Six other individuals and two entities were also named in the U.S. request for a default order, including Takilant Ltd., a Gibraltar-registered company controlled by “a relative of the president of Uzbekistan.”
Karimov’s press office in Tashkent, and Uzbekistan’s embassy in Washington didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the request.
Swiss prosecutors and police raided Karimova’s Geneva mansion in 2013 as they searched for evidence in their own investigation of suspected money-laundering and fraud offenses related to telecommunications contracts in Uzbekistan.
The February settlement was part of a wider, years-long, investigation by U.S., Dutch, Swedish and Swiss authorities into claims that VimpelCom, partly owned by Russian billionaires, along with Mobile TeleSystems PJSC and TeliaSonera AB, paid more than $800 million in bribes in exchange for business and investment opportunities in Uzbekistan.
VimpelCom and its subsidiary Unitel paid more than $114 million in bribes from 2006 to 2012 to a high-ranking foreign official to gain access to the Uzbek market, prosecutors said.
The case is U.S. v. All Funds Held in Account Number CH1408760000050335300 at Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie Bank, Switzerland, on behalf of Takilant Ltd., and any property traceable thereto, et al.
(Updates with details of the request in third paragraph.)
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