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Country continues fight against corruption
By Shakar Saadi
TASHKENT – In the past six months, Uzbekistan has closed approximately 100 stores and factories, citing a crackdown on corruption.
“The fact that about 50 of these enterprises were (financed by) Turkish capital has drawn the public’s attention,” said independent economist Hafiz Yunusov.
President Islam Karimov at the end of 2010 said he would step up the fight against corruption in 2011.
“Most these operations violated basic norms,” Yunusov said. “Many of them avoided paying taxes.”
Authorities filed charges solely in connection with criminal activity and had no intention of discrediting the Turkish people, Gulnoza Rahimova, the general prosecutor’s spokeswoman, said. “The auditing and closure of enterprises whose investments came from Turkish citizens are not anti-Turkish propaganda.”
Turkish businesses were not the only ones shut down, Rahimova said.
Closed businesses included the Turkish supermarket Turkuaz, whose doors shut March 2, Customs Committee spokesman Olikrom Jalolov said.
Customs, tax violations cited
“During the audit, we … put an end to several customs and tax violations … related to the smuggling and selling of foreign-produced consumer goods as well as the manufacturing of counterfeit products,” he said. “In all, we uncovered more than 40 violations, resulting in the seizure of more than $3m in various items.”
Authorities closed many of the companies because they were suspected of aiding the banned extremist Nurchular movement, an anonymous National Security Service source said. “The businesses that were closed were allegedly distributing religious books and aiding Nurchular,” he said.
Zulhumor Madiyeva was a cashier at Turkuaz. An investigator repeatedly called her in for questioning, saying that he was interested in her knowledge of Turkuaz management’s criminal activities and its involvement with Nurchular, she said. “I never heard about the activities of this or other banned groups in Turkuaz’s operations,” she said.
Bahtiyor Akunov was a security officer at Turkuaz. He guessed that the supermarket had violated the law.
“Many saleswomen in the grocery department took part in ‘harmless crimes’ such as changing the production date for foods. There were other violations too,” Akunov said.
The shuttered businesses were involved in tax evasion and corruption, Tashkent Department of Internal Affairs investigator Amir Talibov said.
The closure of those companies has not severely damaged bilateral relations, an anonymous Turkish Embassy source said. The countries have maintained a 30-day visa-free regime for each other’s citizens and 2010 bilateral trade amounted to $1 billion, almost the same as in 2009, the source said.
“If you judge the situation on the whole, then these enterprises had no impact on the country’s business,” Yunusov said. “This went to show only that this time the fight against corruption and lawbreaking has taken a serious turn.”