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Monday
Dec302013

Uzbek dissidents find national treasures in first daughter's Swiss mansion

"Krasavitsa," or "Beauty," a 1980 painting by Chingiz Akhmarov (1912–1995) (courtesy image by RFE/RL)An Uzbek dissident occupying the $20-million Geneva mansion of Gulnara Karimova claims to have found more than 60 20th-century paintings pilfered from Uzbekistan's state art museums.

Five dissidents illegally entered Karimova's home on December 23, according to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

Since then, Safar Bekjan, an Uzbek political refugee who's part of the group, has posted online photos of some of the paintings, including the one shown above.

He has also posted pictures of "hundreds of luxury items, including gold and diamond jewelry, a Bentley automobile, and an 18th-century Koran inlaid with precious stones," RFE / RL said.

"Bekjan told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Radio Ozodlik, that he entered the house looking to document Karimova's excesses, but was shocked to find the art, much of which was stored in the attic."

Two Uzbek art experts who first saw the paintings in the national museum in Tashkent said they believed the paintings photographed by Bekjan were authentic.

Radio Ozodlik said the original paintings had vanished from state collections "under pressure from Opa" -- a reference to the Uzbek word for "big sister," as Karimova is commonly known among the Uzbek public, according to RFE /RL.Gulnara Karimova at the Guli show druing UZ Art Week 2012 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (image courtesy of FashionTV)

Karimova, 41, described in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2005 as a "robber baron," is the eldest daughter of the Uzbek president Islam Karimov.

Documents cited in May by Swedish investigative journalists appear to show evidence of $300 million in bribes to Karimova from Swedish telecom giant TeliaSonera.

Karimova once served as Uzbek's ambassador to the United Nations. She also designs clothes and sometimes appears on the catwalk.

She's now rumored to be out of favor with her father.

"Speculation is rife that that the dissident raid in Geneva is sanctioned by the Uzbek state as well. Bekjan has admitted he entered the home with a key, but has refused to say who provided it to him," RFE /RL said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.