At long last, someone's finally managed to ask Alisher Usmanov pertinent questions about his relationship with Islam Karimov, dictator of Uzbekistan and Gafur Rakhimov, the Uzbek mafia boss. The Grauniad's actual profile and article are typically tame, although they expose the lie that Usmanov was pardoned by Gorbachev, but it's the unexpurgated answers that Usmanov bizarrely demanded be published in full which say a lot more than his bland denials seem to on first glance:
What can you tell us about your relationship with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and his daughter, Gulnora Karimova?
There isn't any relationship between me and President Karimov and any members of his family.
Yeah, sure. Usmanov's pardon, arranged by the Uzbek supreme court, was nothing whatsoever to do with Karimov.
Mr Wise mentioned one Gafur Rakhimov. You are on record as saying that you have known Mr Rakhimov for many years. Is this correct? What can you tell us about your relationship with Mr Rakhimov, and what can you say about these allegations against him?
As I've explained previously, I only knew him since he was a neighbour of my parents. I have never had, nor do I have any business dealings with him.
How very convenient! As Craig Murray points out, this is the equivalent of saying that he only knew Mr Capone because he lived next door to him.
In December 1998, Lord Owen told the Observer newspaper that you had informed him that your criminal convictions were being annulled by Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan. What can you tell us about your relationship with President Karimov?
I have answered this already.
Do you accept that President Karimov was involved in the annulment of your criminal convictions? If so, what part did he play?
My criminal convictions were not annulled, but reconsidered by the Supreme Court, during which the evidence was found proving that the case was a trumped-up one.
The decision on my complete discharge was taken by the Supreme Court, not by the President. I have no relationship with President Karimov, and this is the second time I have to answer the question.
By the way, the verdict was appealed in the Supreme Court in post soviet Uzbekistan by two other persons, who were convicted in the case. Being a citizen of another country I had no chance to do it. People spinning this rubbish prefer to ignore certain facts that don't fit in their theories.
Usmanov, despite being advised by one of the top libel firms and another top PR company doesn't seem to have learned that when you're in a hole you're meant to stop digging.
There have been several reports in the Russian media detailing your appearances at social events organised by President Karimov's daughter, Gulnora Karimova, at the invitation of Ms Karimova. At least one of these reports has appeared in a newspaper that you own. (Kommersant, November 20 2006). It has also been widely reported that Ms Karimova played a role in assisting Gazprom with its gas export deal, by which Gazprom secured the rights to exploit Uzbekistan's gas reserves. What can you tell us about your friendship with Ms Karimova?
I have only met Ms Karimova during official events organised by the Uzbekistan embassy and by the Cultural Fund of Uzbekistan in Moscow.
Is it correct that Ms Karimova also played a role in assisting Gazprom with its gas export deal?
I know nothing about this. I believe that all the deals by Gazprom are made in conformity with a common business practice, like in any public company.
Did you work in conjunction with Ms Karimova in securing the deal?
The nature of my limited acquaintance with Ms Karimova has already been clarified. I have never had any business dealings with her. Sincerely, I do not understand what makes you believe any claims to the contrary, especially coming from a person who hasn't presented nor does he have any evidence to support his position. I have no relationship, business or political alliances with Ms Karimova.
There's plenty here for the investigating hacks to dig into with a view to proving that Usmanov is lying. Expect plenty to be doing so right now.
Nothing that Usmanov has said here will dispel the circling rumours that he and Schillings attempted to stop from even being heard. Indeed, he might well have inadvertently given himself more than enough rope to hang himself with. His blanket denials of the many claims of Craig Murray and others rightly warrant further investigation; his attempt to be straight only furthers the belief that he has plenty to hide, and his previous charm offensives and playing of the victim have done nothing to halt the questions surrounding his background. Further legal flurries seem likely once the truth begins to seep out.
Labels: Alisher Usmanov, Schillings, Uzbekistan