Investigation blows lid on Uzbek gangsters, spies, elite in Latvia

Re: Baltica, the Baltic Center of Invesigative Journalism on Thursday released a pair of sensational new reports exposing the activities of the Uzbek elite in Latvia - tales worthy of any gangland thriller with a plot stuffed full of guns, threats, bribery, extortion and money laundering.

Rather than reproduce the entire lengthy investigation here we'd encourage readers to check out Re:Baltica's own telling of the tales by following the links below.

The first investigation details a series of highly dubious business deals linked to upscale hotels right in the center of the Latvian capital, Riga, and spins off in various bizarre and disturbing directions including even a visit to Scotland.

The second investigation reveals the lives of the Uzbek elite when they come to Latvia, which often contrast remarkably with the lives of most in their poverty-wracked home nation, and the no less remarkable enthusiasm of senior Latvian officials to cultivate ties with the brutal dictatorship.

The third investigation outlines how members of the Uzbek security services seem to have little trouble relocating to Latvia, thanks to the assistance they receive from a former high-ranking KGB officer who now just happens to head a Kremlin-linked gas company.

Bearing in mind that by most measures Uzbekistan has one of the worst human rights records in the world and a government that is generally regarded as staggeringly corrupt even by central Asian standards, the investigations pose serious questions about the cosy relationships between various individuals and groups in Riga and Tashkent.

An official account of the most recent discussions in February this year between the Latvian and Uzbek foreign ministries in Riga makes no mention of organized crime or human rights at all, instead concentrating on exactly the sort of educational opportunities and economic cooperation outlined in the Re:Baltica report.

 

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