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Millions frozen in Uzbek case

Tashkent - Uzbekistan's financial centre gladymore

Swiss banks have been ordered to freeze hundreds of millions of francs in assets linked to an alleged Uzbekistan money laundering scam that has also seen two Uzbek nationals detained in Geneva.

The magnitude of the Swiss probe is only just becoming clear and details remain hazy. Media reports indicate that vast amounts of money have being fraudulently siphoned from a Russian-owned Uzbek telecommunications firm.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office issued arrest warrants for four Uzbek nationals after being tipped off by Bank Vontobel about suspicious accounts in July. Two suspects were arrested in Geneva on July 30.

Spokeswoman Jeanette Balmer confirmed to that “hundreds of millions of francs have been frozen in Swiss banks in connection with this investigation”.

One of the suspects still at large has been connected with one of the largest telecoms companies in Uzbekistan, that was acquired by Russia’s MTS in 2004 before running into financial difficulties this year.

The company’s fall from grace is also being investigated by the Uzbek authorities and several media outlets have reported that the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov may be behind the crackdown.

According to Swiss national radio, investigations centre on suspect transactions between MTS’s Uzbek subsidiary and other foreign firms looking to gain access to the telecommunications market in the central Asian state.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR