Uzbekistan: tax and customs agencies raided in ‘major investigation’

TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan’s top tax and customs agencies are being searched, documents seized, and employees questioned in a large-scale operation in Tashkent, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reports citing local officials.

An Interior Ministry official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation told RFE/RL on February 13 that entry and exit from the compound that houses the Tax Committee was restricted, with military trucks blocking the way.

The searches come two weeks after Rustam Inoyatov, a long-powerful figure who is related to Tax Committee head Botir Parpiev by marriage, was removed from the post of National Security Service (NSS) chief by Presdent Shavkat Mirziyoev.

Inoyatov headed the NSS for almost 23 years and his ouster was seen as part of an effort by Mirziyoev to consolidate power in the Central Asian country, which he has led since the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov in 2016.

An official at the Uzbek Prosecutor-General’s Office, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Parpiev was recently hospitalized for unknown reasons.

The official said that law enforcement authorities launched investigations last week into suspicions of the misuse of some $8.5 million by the Tax Committee and Customs Committee.

Citing unnamed law enforcement officials, Uzbek media reported that the investigations were expected to last until mid-April, and that the results will be reported directly to Mirziyoev.

Mirziyoev ordered the dismissal of thousands of Tax Committee employees in August.

The longtime former prime minister has been shaking up government structures, in particular the powerful NSS and Interior Ministry, since he came to power in the country.

Sergey Kwan