The mayor of the Tashkent city Jahongir Artikkhojaev in a press conference replied to the questions of journalists about his ties with companies involved in the Tashkent City business distrcit project.
Earlier, an OpenDemocracy investigation found that Tashkent City’s foreign investors may, in fact, be acting as a proxy for a network of Central Asian businessmen, among whom was Artikkhojaev.
The company Akfa Dream World (part of Akfa Group owned by Jahongir Artikkhojaev), iwhich s building a congress center with a five-star hotel, is also among the investors of Tashkent City.
Jahongir Artikkhojaev commented on these allegations.
“Akfa is a 20-year-old company. I created this company. I have never even dreamt that I would become a mayor one day. I was notified of my appointment 30 minutes before the announcement. After I became the mayor, the President told me to hand over the company to other managers, and he did not suggest to sell my shares. If I am the mayor, am I obliged to sell my shares? Or, let’s say, if I owned the Apple’s shares, why would I sell them?” he said.
An American lawyer and anti-corruption expert Richard Messick, who studied the information provided by the OpenDemocracy, said that if the documents are genuine, they record a conflict of interest in one of its most blatant forms — transactions for mercenary purposes, when a civil servant gives a governmental order related to his company.
“The Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution in 1992 prohibiting officials from engaging in business activities. The government should immediately start investigating whether this ruling was not violated in this case, and also adopt a comprehensive law on conflict of interest in an expedited manner,” the American lawyer said.
Artikkhojaev addedd that Akfa was a big company: “The company cannot artificially stand aside such a big development project. It has its own financial and economic interests. The president proposed to build a congress hall and a hotel. Akfa Dream World has become a contractor, but when the facilities are completed, they will be handed over to the state. They will not be sources of income for the company,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Laziz Kudratov in response to the Open Democracy statement that the only owner of the German company Hyper Partners (registered in Dietzenbach on January 22, 2018), another investor in Tashkent City, is a 19-year-old person, said:
“This is a normal business practice, it is widespread all over the world. Many companies, in order to implement a project, create new entities. There is such a term special purpose vehicle (SPV). Parent companies create subsidiaries to ensure more efficient financial management of these projects".
According to him, Uzbekistan has no right to demand additional information about the founders of companies.