A least four people have been detained in Tajikistan on suspicion of being in an organized criminal group that is believed to have kidnapped the first deputy head of Orienbonk, Shuhrat Ismatulloyev, on June 23, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, reported on July 3, citing sources within the country’s law enforcement authorities.   

The detainees’ names are not disclosed.  According to the sources, all of them are former officers of the law enforcement agencies and they have abducted the banker along with criminals.

A source close to the investigation told Radio Ozodi on July 2 that one of the detainees is former officers of the Interior Ministry and anticorruption agency (the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption).  

A source close to Shuhrat Ismatulloyev’s family says a former officer of the prosecutor’s office has been detained on suspicion of being involved in the abduction of the first deputy head of the Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) Orienbonk.

Another source told Radio Ozodi that the abductors had used false police number plates that allowed the driver to drive at top speed and disobey the requirements of traffic police officers.  

“Four people participated in kidnapping the banker, but several other people were involved in the abduction,” the source said, noting that abductors “had prepared eleven number plates, mainly number plates used by law enforcement agencies’ vehicles that, as a rule, are not stopped by traffic policemen.

“That is why at the traffic police post, which is located on the outskirts of the city towards Varzob district, a vehicle with tinted glasses was not stopped for inspection,” the source added.  

Recall, Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry said on June 26 that the 49-year-old Ismatulloyev was forced into a black Hyundai Sonata automobile by four unidentified individuals on the evening of June 23 when he left his house on the Zakariyoi Rozi Street in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district and taken to an unknown location.

The Interior Ministry announced a US$30,000 reward for information leading to finding the banker.

Radio Ozodi on July 1 cited Tajikistan’s authorities as saying that one of those suspected of being involved in the abduction of Shuhrat Ismatulloyev allegedly opened fire and killed two security personnel and wounded one another at Chisinau International Airport. 

The detainee was identified as Rustam Ashourov and Tajik prosecutors charge that Ashourov, after the abduction of the banker, fled the country to Moldova through Turkiye in order to subsequently hide in the countries of the European Union.

After Ashourov was refused entry to Moldova, he reportedly “grabbed a pistol from one of the law-enforcement officers of the Chisinau airport, shot two, and took several people hostage.”

Security personnel fired back at the man, wounding him before taking him under arrest, according to Radio Ozodi

The Associated Press (AP) reported that asked if Ashourov had connections to Russian mercenary group Wagner, the head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, said there was no evidence that the suspect “has relationships with military or paramilitary structures” and he was not listed in any international search system.  

Azerbaijani news agency Report, citing Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry, reports that Tajikistan has sent law enforcement officers to Chisinau to interact with Moldovan colleagues and clarify all the circumstances of the incident.  

Radio Ozodi reported on June 26 that Shuhrat Ismatulloyev is the brother of Dilshod Ismatullozoda, the former head of Tajik Air (Tajikistan’s national air carrier), and one of the people close to Hasan Asadullozoda, the head of Orienbank and the brother-in-law of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (his wife’s brother).  

He has reportedly been the first deputy head of Orienbank for years and according to the people in the know, it was Shuhrat Ismatulloyev who actually handled Orienbank’s affairs.

Shuhrat Ismatulloyev’s fate is still unknown 

Orienbank is one of the oldest banks in Tajikistan, and one of its largest financial institutions.  The bank is currently led by Hasan Asadullozoda.