A unique political situation has emerged in Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov, the nation’s leader, is unlikely to make it to 2015 and there is a need to nominate his successor – someone who will guarantee the security and prosperity of his family.
It’s impossible to find a loyal nominee from amongst his inner circle, leaving his family deeply worried about their future. Succession to Karimov – who has no sons, but has two daughters – remains a conundrum for analysts and investors all over the world.
In 2002 he held a referendum, where he extended his term in office from five to seven years. In 2007 Karimov won a landslide victory in the elections – from which opposition candidates were barred. At the moment, it remains unclear whether Karimov will resign in 2014 however, this year the lower house of the Uzbek parliament introduced amendments to the constitution. The modifications increase the power of the MPs, which, experts believe, was to ensure a smooth transition of power from the aging leader to his eventual successor.
In line with one of the major amendments, if Karimov is unable to fulfil his duties, he will be replaced by the Senate chairman. The post is currently held by 52-year-old lawyer Ilgizar Sobirov, who previously worked as head of district in Khorezm Region. Analysts are certain that the incumbent chairman of the Senate will soon be replaced by a would-be successor.
Clues as to who the successor may be began to appear during the lavish ceremonies to mark the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence.
During the ceremony, members of the family (except for the Karimov sisters) were placed close to Islam Karimov. It was the first time in 20 years that Tamara Sabirova, the sister of President Karimov’s wife, appeared in the Independence Day ceremony.
Sat next to Tamara Sabirova was her son, Akbar Abdullaev, making the event his first public appearance.
Everything happens for a reason in the East – especially in such matters as choosing Karimov’s successor and orchestrating his gradual introduction to power.
Before any successor is announced, we can expect to see any number of signs, for instance, who will chair the commission in charge of organizing the funeral of the former ruler?
Back in 2006, Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov was the chairman of the commission in charge of arranging the funeral of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Similar symptoms were also evident in the years preceding the break-up of the Soviet Union.
However, things are different in Uzbekistan. Unlike Saparmurat Niyazov, Karimov is intelligent enough to understand he is not going to live eternally and is therefore going to take care of the succession plan beforehand.
The abovementioned Akbar Abdullaev has started to appear next to Islam Karimov and his participation in the Independence Day ceremony was seemingly his first introduction to the public. Although the press has recently mentioned his name, very little is known about him. Being related to Karimov through his wife Tatyana Karimova, Akbar Abdullaev is the de facto head of Ferghana Region, where he controls over 70 per cent of the region’s economy as well as decides the personnel policy. He is described by people who know him as “an obnoxious character”, and has close links to criminal circles, including some known Russian crime bosses.
According to sources, in 2006 Tamara Sabirova, her partner Odil Allayarov and Akbar Abdullaev were involved in the murder of several businessmen in Ferghana Region, whose businesses they subsequently took over. The prosecutor’s office didn’t dare press charges against Islam Karimov’s relatives. Odil Allayarov fled the country and is currently on the international wanted list. Although according to well-informed sources, it is common knowledge that Allayarov has settled comfortably in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol.
According to online sources, Tamara Sabirova and her son Akbar Abdullaev control the Ferghana oil refinery, the Asia hotel network in Tashkent, Fergana, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, the Quartz joint-stock company and a cement factory in Kuvasay, the Fergana textile joint-stock company, the Silver Silk factory, the Kuvasay textile joint-stock company, the Akbarali private enterprise, the Andizhon Lada joint-stock company in Andizhan, the Marco Polo Company managing textile enterprises in Tashkent and dozens of trade centers. They also own property in France and Germany.
However, unlike Karimov’s daughters, Akbar Abdullaev has not yet acquired a negative image in the West.
It would seem this in part due to 28 year old German citizen Boris Raimicher, who provides Akbar Abdullaev invaluable services ranging from running his businesses to simply translating the menus in restaurants. A native of Moldova, Boris Raimicher moved to Germany in his childhood. Racimicher’s knowledge of Russian, German and English became a valuable asset when he was introduced to Abdullaev, especially considering the fact that Abdullaev has no formal education, with the exception of a district school in Khorezm Region’s Khakiyskiy village.
Having learnt the ropes quickly, Raimicher became Akbar Abdullaev’s close confidant among his European “partners”. In the past, Raimicher faced charges for financial fraud, which involved laundering money for Akbar Abdullaev, yet was never charged.
Raimicher helps his boss Akbar Abdullaev with any kind of task, he is not afraid to sully his own name, arranging for phoney contracts, opening bank accounts in his own name as well as offshore firms. Whilst attempting to stay clear of the public spotlight, Akbar Abdullaev uses his relation to the president’s family as a cover for robbing businessmen and intimidating staff at the major factories in Fergana Region in keeping with the principle that all is fish that comes to his net.
As was reported in the New York Post, the organizers of the New York fashion week cancelled the Guli show – the fashion brand owned by Islam Karimov’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova. The show was originally scheduled for the 15th September. The media assessment of their stance is important for the event’s organizers. By talking to the Qaddafis and the Karimovs as well as their children, one will prompt fury among rights activists and journalists. At the same time material published on the pages of the US and European press described the father of the newly-emerged fashion designer, Islam Karimov, as “the most brutal dictator of modern times”.
It’s noteworthy that Gulnara Karimova also appeared in the Independence Day celebrations, although only towards the end, when Islam Karimov was leaving the ceremony. Police guards who cordoned off the area witnessed how Islam Karimov scolded his daughter for her tacky look as well as absence in the ceremony. Whilst it’s known that Gulnara Karimova has been abusing alcohol of late, she currently concerns herself with far more important matters. She is selling property in Switzerland and moving all her assets to England where she recently acquired an expensive mansion. England is known to be a good safe haven for fugitive oligarchs and corrupt politicians from CIS countries.
Islam Karimov’s younger daughter, Lola Tillyaeva, has distanced herself as far from politics as possible. She contents herself with the fact that the General Assembly of the Asian Gymnastics Union held in Doha (Qatar) in December 2010 and elected her the organization’s honorary president.
So it looks like that the successor has now been determined. Karimov’s daughters have pulled out of the race, leaving Akbar Abdullaev with a seemingly clear run.
By Aleksandr Naydenov, May 2012