Jailed Former CEO Of Uzbekistan's Zeromax Released After 8 Years

Mirodil Jalolov, the jailed former CEO of the Uzbek firm Zeromax, has been released from a detention center in Tashkent after spending more than eight years in custody without a trial.

Jalolov's wife Fotima Jalolova told RFE/RL that her husband was released on January 8 on the order of a Tashkent court after a hearing that lasted one day.

The court ruled that Jalolov was guilty of embezzlement and forgery. He was ordered to pay a fine of about $2,000.

Jalolov was detained in 2010 for questioning after Uzbek authorities shut down Zeromax, a firm that was registered in Switzerland in 2005 when it reportedly was taken over by the late President Islam Karimov's daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

The firm initially had been set up in 1999 in the United States, reportedly by associates of Gafur Rakhimov -- the controversial president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) who is blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals" and an alleged key figure in the global heroin trade.

Largest Employer

For several years, Zeromax was Uzbekistan's largest employer and investor. It had holdings within Uzbekistan in industries ranging from food processing, cotton production, textile manufacturing, the energy sector, and sports.

A classified diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent from 2008 that was released by the WikiLeaks website stated that Zeromax controlled a large stake in many key sectors of the Uzbek economy, including the natural gas, oil, and gold extraction industries.

In 2008, the assets of Zeromax were valued at about $4.5 billion. Uzbekistan's government seized all of those assets from Zeromax in 2010 when it emerged that company owed its creditors an estimated $500 million in unpaid debts.

Until the January 8 court hearing in Tashkent, the charges that led to Jalolov's detention in 2010 had never been publicly revealed.

Jalolov was briefly released from detention in January 2017 but was re-arrested in March 2017 for what prosecutors said was a failure to pay compensation for damages to Uzbekistan's economy.