TASHKENT, February 5 (RIA Novosti) – Uzbekistan has made trading with foreign currency a criminal offense, Uzbekistan’s Tax Committee warned on Tuesday, the latest in a string of measures apparently aimed at preventing the global market slump from eating into the Central Asian republic’s reserves.
“The State Tax Committee warns entrepreneurs and individuals they will be held liable for making settlements in cash foreign currency in the sphere of retail trade and services, including criminal liability,” the committee said in a statement.
From February 1, Uzbekistan banned the sale of cash foreign currency to individuals in an apparent move to alleviate the foreign currency deficit in the former-Soviet republic.
Uzbekistan has suffered from a slump in world commodity prices in recent years, exporting less cotton and gas, the major sources of its budget revenues, due to falling demand.
World prices for cotton have fallen in recent years, while Russian energy giant Gazprom is buying less gas from Uzbekistan due to lower demand from European consumers.
Car dealers in Uzbekistan often illegally sell locally produced vehicles for foreign currency. A month ago the Uzbekistan authorities announced air tickets would also be sold also for foreign exchange only, in a bid to bring in foreign currency from expatriate workers.
The foreign currency exchange rate on the Uzbek black market is about 30 percent higher than the official exchange rate set by the republic’s central bank.