Tajik news sources began reporting late last week that Hasan Rajabov, an adviser to the president on personnel affairs, had been arrested by the country’s security services on corruption charges.
Russia news agency Interfax reported that the charges were related to embezzlement and bribes.
Asia-Plus commented that Rajabov’s crimes apparently took place when he was an assistant to the previous adviser on personnel affairs, Abdujabbor Azizi, who Eurasianet notes became deputy speaker of the Tajik parliament’s lower house in March after nearly 15 years working with the president.
Also in March, President Emomali Rahmon appointed his son Rustam Emomali, 27, head of the state anti-corruption agency.
Corruption is a severe problem in Tajikistan. Transparency International ranked the country 152 out of 175 in its 2014 corruption perception index, placing it in the bottom 10 percent globally. Already the region’s poorest state, Tajikistan’s economic progress is stymied by corruption which exacerbates income inequality, dissuades local businesses from expanding and international investors from doing business in the state. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking place Tajikistan at 166 out of 189 this year. It was at the bottom of the Europe and Central Asia region (Turkmenistan was not included in the ranking). Corruption touches nearly every facet of life in Tajikistan–from students bribing teachers for good grades, families paying to have their relatives released from prison, merchants paying to make certain regulations go away, and smugglers tipping border guards to look the other way.
According to U.S. diplomats writing in embassy cables in 2006 and 2007 which were leaked in 2010, there is much to be suspicious of in Tajikistan’s anti-corruption schemes. One cable, calling “anti-corruption” the newest buzzword, notes that many in the president’s inner circle, including his relatives, are rumored to be the most corrupt. The anti-corruption agency–which was formed in 2007–was set up under the control of the presidency rather than as an independent agency under purview of parliament.
“But fingers in Tajikistan tend as a rule to be pointed by the president, not at him,” Eurasianet commented.
Nepotism doesn’t seem to be the brand of corruption Tajikistan’s anti-corruption agency is looking for. Rustam Emomali has had an impressive career for a 27-year-old, including a seat on the Dushanbe city council, leadership of Tajikistan’s Football federation, ownership of a leading football club, and a job with the Customs Service fighting smuggling that led to his appointment (by his father) as head of that agency in 2013.