Uzbek Bankers Arrested Over Foreign Currency Deals

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TASHKENT, February 7 (RIA Novosti) – The heads of several Uzbekistan banks have been detained for making illegal foreign currency transactions, a police source said on Thursday.

Among those arrested are Muzaffar Ermatov, deputy CEO of Ipoteka bank and a number of credit organization managers. Meanwhile several executives from Khalk Bank, including the head of its Tashkent branch, are wanted but remain at large, the source said.

The bankers ran a criminal scheme in 2010-2012 to buy foreign currency at the official exchange rate and sell it on the black market at higher rates, the police source said.

The black market exchange rate in Uzbekistan is about 35 percent higher than the official rate, which is mostly used for compiling statistical data.

Uzbekistan banned the sale of cash foreign currency to individuals from February 1, in an apparent move to alleviate a foreign currency deficit in the former Soviet republic, which has suffered from a slump in world commodity prices in recent years, and is exporting less cotton and gas, its major sources of its budget revenues.

Uzbekistan’s Tax Committee warned on Tuesday entrepreneurs and individuals would be held liable for making settlements in cash foreign currency "in the sphere of retail trade and services, including criminal liability.”

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