On May 12, 2020, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) sent a letter to Mr. Suma Chakrabarti, President of the EBRD and the EBRD - Civil Society department regarding the following:
On November 21, 2019, a number of electronic media in Uzbekistan reported that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) intends to invest up to $40 million in the expansion program of the supermarket chain «KORZINKA.UZ», the operator and likely owner of which is «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC, registered in Uzbekistan. Based on the contents of these publications, the above conclusion is a result of the following statements by the management of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC:
— «The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is investing up to $40 million in the «KORZINKA.UZ» supermarket chain, the company stated to SPOT.UZ».
— This will be a direct investment in the equity of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC, the operator of the «KORZINKA.UZ» supermarket chain in Uzbekistan.
— The investment will support the network's expansion program from the current 50 to 140 supermarkets by 2025, as well as improving operational efficiency and corporate governance standards in line with international standards.
— In addition to expanding the network and improving the company's operational and financial performance, the project is expected to have a positive impact on the environment, raise social standards, improve the company's health and safety policies and practices.
— The «KORZINKA.UZ» supermarket chain has undergone all the necessary procedures, audits in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards, environmental and social screening (ESDD) which has confirmed that the company has met the requirements of the Environmental, Health, Safety and Safety Management System (EHSS) in accordance with the EBRD's high standards and national legislation.»
On March 6, 2020 the following information appeared on the Uzbek website «SPOT.UZ»:
— «In early February, Singapore's Anglesey Investments PTE. LTD (owner of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC, which operates stores under the «KORZINKA.UZ» brands) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have signed an agreement according to which the bank invests up to $40 million by buying a minority stake in the company.
— The parties do not disclose the size of the acquired stake. The head of the EBRD's representative office in Uzbekistan, Alkis Drakinos, told reporters during a briefing on Thursday that the bank would ensure that its stake in the company did not exceed 25%».
— The Singapore Trade Registry shows that Anglesey Investments PTE. LTD is registered on December 23, 2019. The company shares its address with a dozen other companies according to the Registry.
On May 8, 2020 Iman Karimova, the daughter of Gulnara Karimova who was the daughter of former President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, reported on her Facebook page that her mother (Gulnara Karimova) had transferred some of the assets previously owned by her to the Uzbekistan authorities. It now appears, that these assets were not transferred under the ownership of the state but were passed on to private owners. Gulnara Karimova herself is currently serving a prison sentence after a third court sentence issued against her for economic crimes. These assets include stakes in «KORZINKA.UZ», the supermarket chain, which is operated and owned by «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC.
The above raises the following questions:
1) Why do EBRD representatives not name the actual owners (the beneficiaries) of the capital of the company in which they intend to invest?
2) Information about the EBRD's intention to invest in the development of the «KORZINKA.UZ» network owned by Foreign Company «Anglesey Food» LLC appeared in November 2019. And in December 2019, a Singaporean company was registered, which received the transferred assets of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC, based on the above information. Which company and in what jurisdiction was the owner of the capital of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC earlier? Does this mean that among former owners of «Anglesey Food» Foreign Company LLC's capital was a company controlled by Gulnara Karimova? Is it true that EBRD is acquiring Gulnara Karimova's stake in the «KORZINKA.UZ» business through this transaction? We believe you know the answer to this question, because such transactions are subject to prior due diligence.
3) Is it considered an acceptable practice by the EBRD to invest in new companies with opaque capital structure and no disclosures such as Singapore's «Anglesey Investments PTE.LTD»?
Given that the EBRD is committed to increasing transparency and supports the development of registries of the ultimate beneficial owners of domestic and foreign companies, providing legal and technical assistance to develop relevant legislation, data collection and publication at the official level, including registries, we hope to receive answers to the above questions in the nearest future. Our organization continues to monitor the implementation of the principles of responsible asset repatriation to Uzbekistan, using the national and international mechanisms of human rights protection.