Gulnara Karimova, 46, is the daughter of the former tyrannical ruler of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. A few years ago, there were rumors circulating that Gulnara was missing and that she'd possibly been poisoned to death. She had been missing for ages and was presumed to be dead by many people. In fact, the press reported that she had died under mysterious circumstances just a few months after her father's death from cardiac arrest. That was not the case. Now, she's been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a $2 billion corruption scandal.
Karimova was once a socialite who moved in the same circles as the British royals and London high society. She was once a billionaire and believed to be the richest woman in Russia. She was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth's cousin Prince Michael of Kent. She was friends with tycoon Nat Rothschild and actor Jude Law, among others. She was once the most powerful women in central Asia. She has a master's degree from Harvard, a judo black belt, fluent in four languages, a professional jewelry designer, model, socialite, fashion designer, foreign diplomat, poet, and performer of a number one hit pop single. She was a living, breathing James Bond villainess who, at the height of her power, was the richest woman oligarch in the former USSR.
She was mired in scandals and corruption, ran a $600 million bribery scheme in her heyday and was the subject of an ongoing money laundering probe in Switzerland. In 2015, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that Gulnara had accepted more than $1 billion in bribes from Russian and Scandinavian telecom companies wanting to expand into Uzbekistan.
And then she went missing. Reports that she had been poisoned began to circulate. And then just as suddenly as she went missing she reappeared and was arrested. The former first daughter of Uzbek has been charged with fraud, money laundering, and concealing foreign currency. The total value of Karimova's theft from the citizens of Uzbekistan is valued at more than $2 billion. She has been accused of fraudulently obtaining assets worth $600 million as well as receiving $876 million in kickbacks, which she funneled into offshore accounts.
Diplomatic dispatches from the U.S. describe Karimova as a "robber baron." She was actually slated to succeed her father as president, but, when he heard the scale of her corruption, he turned on her. He slapped her in the face and banished her from his view. She was sentenced by a secret court in Tashkent. She has been serving time in a bleak penal colony while her trial dragged on for years.
The government of Uzbekistan has confiscated more than $1 billion of her assets. In February, Karimova begged her father's successor President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to permit her release, citing ill health and an urgent need for surgery.
Her 13-year sentence will be counted from 2015 when she was detained.