The glamorous eldest daughter of the Uzbek leader got a government agency to jam the signals of a US telco operating in the Turkic state when it rebuffed her overtures to take over the upstart mobile phone provider, diplomatic cables revealed this week.
Former US ambassador to Uzbekistan Jon Purnell wrote in a heavily redacted January, 2005 cable that "industry insiders" told him Uzbek President Islom Karamov's daughter, Gulnara Karimova (38), wanted to own the country's major mobile phone providers, one of which was backed by US interests.
Karimova was contacted for comment by email and through her website.
Telecom Inc trading as Skytel was 70 percent owned by US company NCI Projects International and incumbent state operator Uzbektelecom. Telecom Inc invested $US12 million in the local operator, which used the CDMA 450 MHz frequency.
But when the US-Uzbek joint venture didn't return her calls Karimova took direct action, Purnell wrote in cable 05TASHKENT284, that forced the closure of the company a month later.
"Business sources have told us that Karimova may be behind recent moves to push US investment company Telecom Inc out of the Uzbek market," Purnell wrote.
Karimova's Wikipedia entry lists her as an "Uzbek social activist, businesswoman, fashion designer, singer and diplomat" who is the country's plenipotentiary to Spain. She has a bachelor of arts in telecommunications, Wikipedia said.
But the Guardian, quoting other Wilieaks cables, reported that she was "the single most hated person in the country".
"After several months in operation, Gulnora [sic] Karimova directly approached them about taking over some portion of the company," he wrote. "[But] because the company did not respond to her requests, the company's frequency has been jammed by an Uzbek Government agency, making the cellular service nearly inoperable."
Purnell wrote the state-owned junior partner was "either unwilling or unable to help and has chosen to not return the US company's phone calls".
In April, 2005 Uzbek regulators said they would not permit Skytel to resume operations. According to a report, the deputy head of the State Radio Frequencies Commission, Mairam Kholmuratova said the company was stripped of its wireless bandwidth because the 450 MHz frequency was overloaded and interfering with Uzbekistan Government users such as security agencies.
At the time, Karimova was also vying for control of Uzbektelecom that, under legislative changes, would force international operators to route traffic including internet and IP telephony through its network, "guaranteeing colossal returns" to its owner, Purnell wrote.
The former Soviet state was a lynchpin for US efforts in Afghanistan.