Gulnara Karimova Questioned By Swiss Prosecutors

The elder daughter of Uzbekistan’s late President Islam Karimov was questioned recently over money-laundering accusations by Swiss prosecutors while under house arrest in Tashkent, according to a lawyer who attended the meetings.

The account provides the first tangible information on Gulnara Karimova’s situation since the once globe-trotting popstar and businesswoman disappeared from public sight nearly three years ago.

The fate of Ms. Karimova, who Swiss prosecutors have named as a suspect in a criminal corruption probe and who U.S. prosecutors believe was the beneficial owner of hefty bribery payment, has been shrouded in mystery since she was detained in her country in February 2014.

At the time, Uzbek prosecutors mentioned her name on a list of people suspected of misappropriating $200 million. But detailed charges weren’t disclosed and no public trial was held.

More questions arose about her whereabouts and condition in September, when she didn’t attend the funeral of her father, who ruled the former Soviet republic for a quarter-century.

On Dec. 9 and 10, however, two Swiss prosecutors were allowed to meet with Ms. Karimova for a combined 23-hour interrogation in the Uzbek capital, according to Grégoire Mangeat, a court-appointed lawyer and chairman of the Geneva Bar who is representing her in the Swiss probe.

The lawyer said he was given the opportunity to speak with her alone twice ahead of the hearing.

“She was in relative good health but her security is not at all guaranteed,” Mr. Mangeat said. “She is confined to a small annex at her former house in the center of Tashkent.

She’s banned from communicating with the outside world, be it her children or her own lawyers.”

A spokeswoman for Swiss prosecutors in Bern confirmed that officials from the Office of the Attorney General had been to Uzbekistan.

She declined to comment further on the investigation. Uzbek officials couldn’t be reached over the weekend.

Regarding the accusations leveled against his client—prosecutors suspect 800 million Swiss francs ($793 million) seized in Switzerland are the spoils of Ms. Karimova’s alleged corrupt practices with global telecoms companies the lawyer said she would respond once she has had a chance to examine court documents.

The probe has sprawling ramifications, including in the Netherlands, Sweden and France. “But the conditions under which she is held, make it extremely hard, even impossible, for her to defend herself,” Mr. Mangeat said.

The decision to make Ms. Karimova available for questioning by Swiss magistrates marks a shift by Uzbek authorities who, under Mr. Karimov, had stonewalled queries for judicial cooperation.

Analysts said it could indicate a desire by Uzbekistan’s new president, Shavkat Mirziyoev, to draw a line under a protracted corruption scandal that has tarnished the image of the landlocked country.

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