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File Photo: Designer Gulnara Karimova (L), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, stands with a model after presenting her Guli Collection at China Fashion Week in Beijing October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee(reuters_tickers)
ALMATY (Reuters) - Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of late Uzbek ex-president Islam Karimov, is in custody following a 2015 conviction for extortion and embezzlement and is being investigated for more crimes, the Uzbek Prosecutor General's office said on Friday.
The announcement is the first official word on the whereabouts of Karimova, 45, who disappeared from public view in 2014 after apparently falling out with her father, a strongman who had run the Central Asian nation for 27 years.
State prosecutors said in a statement they were seeking to freeze about $1.5 billion (1.15 billion pounds) in assets held by Karimova, including in Switzerland, Sweden, Britain, France, Latvia, Ireland, Malta, Germany, Spain, Russia, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
Karimova could not be contacted for comment. The prosecutor's office did not say who was representing her.
The prosecutor's office said Karimova had been sentenced in 2015 to five years' probation -- a measure which may equal house arrest in Uzbek law -- for acquiring through extortion or embezzlement stakes in a number of companies, and for tax evasion. The statement was the first word on that conviction.
She is also being investigated on charges of fraud, evading customs and foreign exchange regulations, and money laundering, and is held in custody pending a trial.
According to prosecutors, the assets they are seeking to have frozen include cash and properties in Switzerland and London, villas at Chateau de Groussay and Saint Tropez in France, and an airplane in Malta.
Karimova, the elder of Islam Karimov's two daughters, was once seen as a powerful businesswoman and politician and a potential successor to her father.
Where she has been since disappearing in 2014 is unclear and the authorities have been tight-lipped about it even after Karimov's death from a stroke last September. Swiss prosecutors have investigated Karimova for money laundering since 2014.
Karimov's second daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, is Uzbek ambassador to UNESCO, a position she has held since 2008.
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Polina Devitt and Catherine Evans)