Lola Karimova’s recent BBC interview
presents her in a better light than other members of her family, but her attempts to justify her luxurious Western lifestyle – arguably afforded by stealing money from her country – hardly invoke sympathy.
The Uzbek president’s two daughters – Gulnara and Lola – resemble two sisters from the well-known Russian fairy tale Morozko. The oldest, 41-year-old Gulnara, also known as GooGoosha, is definitely Marfusha, whose slew of corruption charges from several European countries has forced her to retreat back under her father’s roof for protection and wait for the cards she is dealt to decide her fate. Will she inherit her father’s throne or come up empty handed?
35-year-old Lola is heeding the warning signs that her family’s fortunes may possibly come to an inglorious end, and is attempting to distance herself from her family.
In her BBC Uzbek interview she made sure she appears in the role of the kind and gentle Alenushka – the better of the two Morozko sisters.
In the fairy tale, however, Marfusha and Alenushka not only have very different personalities, but also different parents. Gulnara and Lola on the other hand do not just share a family bond, but their life achievements – professional and financial – which all stem from their father’s position.
Neither of them could have reached the heights they have were it were not for their father. More specifically, if it was not for the fact that they have a thoroughly corrupt dictator as father.
The useful interview
Tashpulat Yuldashev, a political scientist living in the USA, believes that Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s BBC interview is an attempt to save her own skin.
The BBC states that Ms. Karimova responded to 18 questions in writing and omitted to answer any clarifying questions.
This interview thus afforded the president’s younger daughter an opportunity to state her position for the public record while only saying as much as she herself wanted to say.
According to Mr. Yuldashev, Ms. Karimova-Tillyaeva’s interview was dictated by the necessity of clearing her own name – in light of her older sister’s persistent legal troubles – who is being investigated on corruption and money-laundering charges in Switzerland, Sweden and France.
“She is afraid that her older sister’s reputation will taint her image,” says Mr. Yuldashev, “Similarly she is afraid that her father’s shadow will jeopardize her newly found status among Western billionaires,”
Ms. Karimova-Tillyaeva carefully and deliberately sets herself apart from her sister in the interview. They had differences in childhood and have only grown further apart as they became adults. They have not talked for twelve years and do not see each other at family functions.
Her tone is full of reproach when commenting on Gulnara’s dealings with Swedish-Finnish telecom giant TeliaSonera – of whom the president’s older daughter is accused of extorting multi-million bribes from.
Ms. Karimova-Tillyaeva admits that she knows about her sister’s legal troubles, but does not know if her father is aware of the situation – during her rare visits home, she does not discuss politics with her president-father.
Her concise assessment of her older sister’s chances of becoming the next Uzbek president – “not very likely” – is not very
|Father’s favorite – Gulnara Karimova celebrates the 22nd anniversary of Uzbek independence with President Karimov|
favorable to her sister.
In addition to her sister’s tainted image, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva also attempts to distance herself from her father. She shrewdly allows the appropriateness of the use of “dictator” in regard to her father but takes issue with being called “the dictator’s daughter” – claiming self-determination and free will.
Her assessment of her father’s internal policies is quite measured. She condemns the use of child labor anywhere in the world, and as a mother of three sounds genuinely convincing and concerned when addressing the need for all children to have access to quality education.
Generally, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva conveys the message that she has nothing to do with corruption or human rights abuses – her sister and father are the ones to blame. She is simply a wife and mother of three. Her family fortune is the fruit of her wisdom and her husband’s successful business.
Loved ones will understand
The public rift between the Karimov daughters is unlikely to cause much grief to the Uzbek president, believes political scientist Tashpulat Yuldashev. He most likely understands his younger daughter’s desire to secure her Western status and to protect the future of her family; even if that means abandoning the ship as it sinks and all those on board.
Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva admits in her interview that she has little to do with her native Uzbekistan. She and her husband have sold nearly all of their Uzbek property, holding on only to an apartment in Tashkent in order to have a place for her family to stay on their rare visits to her homeland.
The extraction of the country’s capital and its re-investment abroad is what the Uzbek president and all those close to him engage in constantly. So at least with respect to this, believes Mr. Yuldashev, her father has something to take pride in. The political scientist finds this admission by the president’s daughter appalling – she has no interest in the country where he father has ruled for almost a quarter of a century.
“Karimov preaches patriotism while his own family has extorted most of the country’s resources and invested them overseas. You can barely call them Uzbek citizens at this point,” says Tashpulat Yuldashev.
The political scientist thinks that it is possible that the interview is a strategic move for the entire family and not just for Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva.
The notorious Gulnara Karimova might no longer be suitable as the next torch bearer for the family. Mr. Karimov needs to find and groom another person from his inner circle. Someone whose reputation is not so deeply mired in scandal and dirty financial dealings.
Modest and not-a-dictator’s daughter?
In her BBC interview Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva states that she is far removed from politics and has no political aspirations for the future, having apparently forgotten that she is the Uzbek representative to UNESCO – not an entirely apolitical post.
The ease with which she seems to have forgotten her official post seems to indicate she is not too burdened by this role. And why should she be? It is a present from her father, and ensures her diplomatic status and immunity.
Ms. Karimova-Tillyaeva is equally modest about her family’s wealth. In order to buy their house in Switzerland – estimated to be worth 46 million USD – she and her husband had to take out a mortgage, only paying 18 percent of the cost up front.
Mr. Yuldashev believes that perhaps a family of “modest” means could have found a slightly cheaper home. In any case, in order to receive more than 30 million
|The Karimova-Tillyaeva family at home in Geneva|
in credit from a bank one needs proof of adequate income and perhaps some collateral as well. It can be assumed that the Karimova-Tillyaev family satisfied these requirements.
The interview is silent on her latest real estate purchase – a palace in Los Angeles estimated to have cost 58 million USD. Thus, just two of her houses – those known to the public – cost a combined total of close to 100 million USD.
When your father-in-law is a dictator
Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s husband, Timur Tillyaev, is the owner of the Uzbek trade and transport company Abusaxiy. Having the president as a father-in-law has helped him to monopolize the transport of most goods into the country. Every importer in Uzbekistan is obliged to sign a transporting contract with Abusaxiy.
Importers in the part of Kyrgyzstan that borders Andijan province say that the imported goods purchased in Kyrgyzstan are first transported to Tashkent and then driven back to Andijan, by Abusaxiy.
Mr. Tillyaev’s own imported goods are exempted from standard customs controls, providing ample opportunity for counterfeit goods to be brought into the country. The company owns several wholesale markets in Tashkent as well as in other regions of the country.
A monopoly over imported goods in a country of 30 million can turn anyone into a billionaire, says Mr. Yuldashev, provided of course one is a son-in-law of a dictator.
“Lola’s interview is not fooling anyone,” summarizes the political scientist, “they will all be judged for stealing from the country.”