Will it not be spent on another party of celebrities?
The European Union has allocated 3.7 million Euro to a charitable organization controlled by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, the daughter of the Uzbek dictator. Karimova-Tillaeva is also Uzbekistan’s representative to UNESCO.
On 19 May 2011, in his defense statement in the suit brought by Lola Karimova against the French online publication "Rue89," lawyer Antoine Germain mentioned a letter sent by the office of Europa House in Uzbekistan to the Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children (hereinafter – Center), the director of which is the Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva. The letter confirms that the European Union has allocated 3.7 million Euro to the Center, which will be transferred to its accounts in 2011. The letter from Europa House, dated 20 April 2011, was probably intended to attest to the respectability of Madame Karimova to the court in Paris.
At the same court proceedings, the journalist Anaelle Verzaux served as a witness presenting the cost estimates for a charity event organized by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva in February 2010 at the Versailles Palace. According to these estimates, this organization, run by Lola Karimova, paid 230,000 Euro for the attendance of the well-known actress Monica Bellucci at the party. It was not reported whether the guests to the party gave even one Euro to the fund for Uzbek children. Expenses were incurred only by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, but obviously not from her personal pocket.
This raises several questions:
1. First of all, we are concerned that funds allocated by the European Union and other foreign donors may be used for purposes other than their originally stated one, which may include for Lola Karimova’s self-promotion and for promotion of the autocratic regime which she represents. These concerns are bolstered by the fact that information about the Center’s activities are not posted on the website of the organization itself (as there is no such site), but on the personal site ofLola Karimova-Tillaeva.
2. Does the European Union understand the nature and circumstances of the Center, to which it has given a significant amount of funding? If the European Union believes that the Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children is a true representative of civil society in Uzbekistan, then they are seriously mistaken.
In Uzbekistan, the majority of non-governmental organizations, created by citizens themselves, including those aiming to help children with disabilities, were shuttered in 2004- 2006 in a campaign to crackdown civil society associations. This was the Uzbek regime’s reaction to the “color revolutions” that were taking place in some CIS countries. Only in August and September 2005, under the threat of criminal investigation, some 200 NGOs were forced to shut down. But even during the time that they were operating, not one civil society organization could even dream of receiving such a generous amount as 3,7 million Euro. Obviously, you have to be close to the presidential family in order to receive such an amount.
In Uzbekistan, in order to establish control over the population, the government itself created NGOs, known as GONGOs, which, unlike genuinely initiative civic associations, registered without a hitch, and are able to operate freely under favorable conditions.
The Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children was created exactly in such a manner, according to the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers N°419, dated 7.09.2004. We’d highlight the following paragraphs from this decree:
1. To develop through the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, a Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children [For your reference: the Women’s Committee – is, in practice, a state body, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister.]
2. To ensure that the director of the Center is approved by the Cabinet of Ministers and that his/her activities will be held accountable to the Cabinet of Ministers.
5. To include the Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children in:
— the list of organizations receiving copies of decrees and orders of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, decrees and orders of the Cabinet of Ministers, and materials of the sessions of the Oliy Mazhilis [parliament] of the Republic of Uzbekistan;
— the list of recipients of bulletins of statistical information from the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
8. Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan will within two weeks, in consultation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population, and the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan, approve a plan for the salaries of staff of the Center and a unified tax rate.
9. Tashkent City administration, will, within one month, allocate a building for the Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children, providing the necessary conditions for its activities and operations, and will provide, if necessary, repairs to the premises, as well as telephone services.
10. Monitoring the implementation of this Decree will be assigned to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan S.T. Inamova.
That is how the regime imitates the existence of civil society in Uzbekistan and urges foreign donors to fund pseudo-NGOs created by it. At the same time, the activities of civic associations that have not received legal registration are seen as a violation of the law, and those who participate in such activities can be subject to serious repercussions.
There are also questions for the actress Monica Bellucci. Mrs. Bellucci, upon taking money from Lola Karimova, were you aware of the fact that the money given to you came from the budget of a charitable organization, which was supposed to provide assistance to children with disabilities? By giving this money to you, Lola Karimova deprived hundreds of children in need with the possibility of receiving much needed assistance. If you were not aware then, do you realize this now? What will you now do with these funds?
From the recent court hearings of Lola Karimova’s claims against the publication “Rue89,” it seems that Mrs. Karimova is very concerned of the dictatorial regime’s image, tarnished by this publication’s very competent journalists, and seeks to clean it up or “launder” it, so to speak, as a French journalist said. However, new circumstances make one wonder whether it’s not only the regime’s image that is being “laundered”, and whether the funds which were intended to help children with disabilities were ‘laundered’ too?
As the financial activities of the state and quasi-state structures in Uzbekistan are not a model of transparency, one can imagine that a generous grant from the European Union could be used to satisfy the personal aims of Lola Karimova or pay for expensive gifts to European celebrities.
Finally, the case of Karimova is a clear cut case of a conflict of interest. It is obvious that the appointment of Lola Karimova to a diplomatic post is either a result of the orders of her father – the dictator Islam Karimov, or was a decision made to curry his favor. The European Union must take this into account when such a considerable amount of funding is allocated to representatives of Uzbekistan’s corrupt regime.