Tashkent residents: the Uzbek government "is the mafia”

Salim Abduvaliyev on a cover page of the Elita Obshchestva magazine
Uznews.net - Tashkent residents, who have spoken to Uznews.net, have not been surprised by a Wikileaks report about the Uzbek government’s direct link with the mafia. Moreover, many of them believe that the Uzbek leadership is an organised criminal group.

The following poll conducted in Tashkent shows the opinions of ordinary Uzbek citizens and political experts about the recent Wikileaks report.

Abdullo Tojiboy-ugly, an opposition political activist:

“Recent revelations by Wikileaks concerning the links between the Uzbek government and Salim Abduvaliyev [a mafia boss], somewhat upset me.

“We have repeatedly spoken about the fact that the Uzbek government picked up and appropriated all types of criminal activities of the so-called criminal kingpins, such as robbery, racket, swindle and murder of peaceful residents of the country, and appropriated Uzbekistan’s natural reserves, which belong to the people. As a result, corruption grew in the country and a serious damage was inflicted on the local economy.

“At the same time, it was not known for certain that kingpins still controlled and were involved in the political, economic and social life of Uzbekistan.

"We did not suppose that shuffling of top officials in the country were intermediated by mafia groups, and the West in the face of US leaders and European Union countries perfectly knew and turned a blind eye to this without taking any measures. This is very annoying.”

Rashid, 50, a disabled:

”Only a blind or crazy person cannot see the fact that the mafia is committing lawless acts in the country. One thing should be clarified: the government has not merged with the mafia – it is the mafia.

A retired government official, 60:

“The government is a gang of crooks and the mafia is its assistant.

Faniya, 45, a public transport worker:

“Of course, our government has merged with the mafia – it is obvious. Officials cover the crimes of other officials, and they start to ‘harass’ those who are trying to complain about it in all government bodies.”

A retired man, 75:

“In our country, corruption is rampant, and corrupt officials cannot help growing together with the mafia - they have a symbiosis in Uzbekistan: if one steals, the other one covers him up for appropriate bribe.

A businessman, 58:

“In 1995, an agreement was reached between Interior Minister (Zakir) Almatov and the leaders of the biggest criminal gangs Salim [Abduvaliyev] and Gafur [Rakhimov] under which these leaders were bound to stop street crime and turn into law-abiding businessmen. The agreement is strictly adhered to, so Salim cannot be described as a ‘bandit’ in any way for the past 15 years.

“As for his brokerage in the sale of positions and investment, this is not something shameful in a country which is corrupt. Surely, some prominent academics, writers or businessmen, who have not mired themselves with relationship with criminals, are also involved in the same brokerage.

A computer engineer, 30:
Secret cables mention the president's daughter Gulnara Karimova's links to the mafia

“What can we say about a country where, like in [Russian comedian] Khazanov’s story, you receive a reply to your complaint about the boss of a housing department from the same boss? And if you write a complaint about any thief, then this thief will be the first and, perhaps, the only reader of your complaint. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the government has ties to organised crime, and that is no good.

Kahramon, 48, a taxi driver:

“I think the mafia is connected with the government, but not so much, not on that high level. I even think that the mafia has been strongly squeezed. Remember the 1990s, when cars used to be stolen and sold or given back to their owners for ransom. This has not been happening since longer prison terms started to be applied for car theft. And who is behind these thefts? - The mafia. This means that all these thieves have strongly been squeezed.

“But if indeed the government and the mafia are closely linked with each other, it is very bad. The government must live by the laws of its country.

Rustam, 23, a trader:

“Of course, they are all linked! They are all one mafia! For my little ‘outlet’ in the bazaar I pay not only tax and rent, but have to pay to ‘watchmen’ as well. On the other hand, neither bazaar supervisor nor area inspector have claims against me, no-one picks on me without any reason. Is that not the mafia or something, if some thug resolves problems with the police? It is the same in the government but their ‘watchmen’ are more serious.

“However, this is good for me: if the mafia helps keep the order, then let it be.

Raisa, 27, an economist:

“Undoubtedly, links between the mafia and the government are very close and they have merged, indeed. This is obvious from the example of the firm where I work but I will not mention the firm’s name or its field of activity. Our founders hold top positions in the Finance Ministry and thanks to them we have obtained profitable contracts.

“The same thing is happening on higher levels. Remember, at least, the notorious Zeromax. The company used to get very big and profitable contracts in all areas it was operating in. I cannot say for sure if this is good or bad. On the one hand, Zeromax created jobs and paid good salaries to thousands of people. On the other hand, this kind of behaviour was certainly uncompetitive and infringed upon other firms’ interests.

“Because of this uncompetitive distribution of welfare and contracts I do not approve of the government’s links with organised crime. In addition, this is inevitably leading to the development of corruption.

Rahim, 37, a taxi driver:

“I live in the so-called ‘Salim’s street’ and see that people visit him in posh cars with government plate numbers, some ‘big shots’. I do not know if the daughters [of the president] visit him, perhaps he visits them… But I do not doubt that they all are linked.

“Where do they [criminal leaders] get this kind of profits? They have brought all businesses under their complete control and, of course, some very big shot helps them. And they pay him his share.

A student, 20:

“I have never thought about whether the government and the mafia are linked. But it is impossible to live here – complete lawlessness and chaos are reigning all around. I should run away to some normal country...