Net Tightens Around Uzbekistan's Ex-General Prosecutor

Police have issued an arrest warrant for the now-jailed former top prosecutor's fugitive son.

Authorities in Uzbekistan last month arrested long-serving former General Prosecutor Rashid Kadyrov on corruption charges and have now broadened the investigation to include immediate members of his family.

The Interior Ministry this week posted a wanted notice for Kadyrov’s 38-year-old son, Alisher, who they say is suspected of multiple counts of large-scale fraud. Sources have reportedly said he has left the country, either for Moscow or Zurich.

Rashid Kadyrov’s fall from grace has been dramatic. He served as the country’s top prosecutor from 2000 through to 2015, over which time he is now alleged to have accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit payments.

If found guilty, Kadyrov, 66, could be sentenced to up 15 years in jail.

As the country’s main prosecutor for so many years, Kadyrov would have been at the lead of countless prosecutions of activists and practitioners of Islam suspected of terrorist sympathies. But it appears it is his history of demanding kickbacks from businessmen that has been his undoing. RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Radio Ozodlik, also cited unnamed sources in the General Prosecutor’s Office as saying Kadyrov is accused of “laundering money through foreign banks.”

The move against Kadyrov has been several months in coming. During a government meeting last August, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev launched a ferocious attack on what he described as the rampant corruption in the prosecutor’s office.

“We have appointed a new General Prosecutor and purged the prosecutor’s office of the old trash, changing out 80 percent of the staff. But we still have 15-20 percent of staff left over from the previous thieving system,” Mirziyoyev said, without ever mentioning Kadyrov by name.

While Alisher Kadyrov appears to have been able to flee Uzbekistan before investigators got around to detaining him, his father was not so lucky. Moscow-based Ferghana news agency reported that Kadyrov senior was taken into custody while attempting to fly out of Tashkent international airport. Two of his deputies were also reportedly detained on February 23 and charged with fraud, abuse of office and taking bribes.

In yet another development, Radio Ozodlik reported on March 6 that Rashid Kadyrov’s son-in-law, Oibek Zainiddinov, a senior official at the customs department, has also been arrested. All these detentions appear to be linked to a single broader investigation.

The crackdown on these prominent elements from within the regime of the late President Islam Karimov, who died in September 2016, ostensibly serves a dual function. Mirziyoyev’s government wishes to be seen by the general public as taking a serious stance against out-of-control corruption and the impunity of corrupt justice officials, who have done untold damage to Uzbekistan’s economy over the past quarter century.

A more cynical interpretation would be that Mirziyoyev is carving out spaces for his own loyalists as a way of bolstering his own grip on power. If this reading has any truth to it, it may be hasty to draw any conclusions about the prospects of a genuine effort to root out corruption at all levels.