The Dushanbe city court has sentenced nine Tajik nationals, including three customs officers and one police officer, to various terms of imprisonment.

The sentence followed their conviction on charges of smuggling gold bars and foreign currency out of Afghanistan through Tajikistan into Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Dushanbe city court press center says the investigation has reportedly established that two nationals of Tajikistan – M. Safarov and S. Nazarov -- agreed with two unidentified citizens of a foreign state named Naim Rasouli and Mohammad Zarif to smuggle large consignment of gold bars and foreign currency out of Afghanistan via Tajik territory into Turkey and the UAE.    

To implement this plan, Safarov reportedly brought in his brother F. Safarov and two sons-in-law M. Rahmonov and H. Saidov. 

They received power of attorney to take out gold and foreign currency of Afghan companies Suhrab Gheyasi Jewelry and Abdul Naseem Qarizada Jewelry, according to Dushanbe city court press center.

From September to November 14, 2020, they reportedly managed to smuggle more than 20/5 million Saudi riyals, 2.5 million UAE dirhams, 55.5 million and more than 1,300 kilograms of gold bars  out of Afghanistan through Tajikistan to Turkey and the UAE.

On November 14, 2020, Nazarov and Safarov were detained at Dushanbe International Airport while attempting to smuggle 13.5 million Saudi riyals, 200,000 British pounds and about 90 kilograms of gold bars into the UAE.  

A senior inspector of the Customs Checkpoint Panji Poyon, Mahmadrizo Sharipov, was sentenced to two years in correctional labor with deduction of 30% of wages in favor of the state.

Two other customs officers – Z. Aslonov and Q. Saifulloyev – and police officer K. Odinazoda escorted the cargo from the border of Afghanistan to the Dushanbe airport and they got jail terms for that.  

Subhiddin Nazarov, Muhammadali Safarov, Firdavsi Safarov, Hasan Saidov, Mehrubon Rahmonov,  Qurbonali Saifulloyev, Zarif Aslonov and Qutbiddin Odinazoda  were reportedly sentenced to between 2 and 5½ years in prison.  

All seized gold bars and currency were confiscated in favor of the state.

Recall, the Customs Service under the Government of Tajikistan said on February 19 that the gold bars and money seized at Dushanbe airport on November 14 had been illegally transported from Afghanistan by a group of smugglers.  The group reportedly attempted to send the cash and gold bars to the United Arab Emirates on a flight from the Dushanbe airport.  But the cargo was discovered and seized before it was loaded onto the plane.

Afghan high-ranking politician Mohammad Mirza Katawazai, who found himself at the center of a scandal in Tajikistan involving the seized gold bars and cash, was relieved of his post of  Vice-Speaker of the Wolosi Jirga (Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament).

Recall, Mohammad Mirza Katawazai rejected the claim by Afghan media that he is linked to the cash and gold smuggling.

“These [allegations] are all nonsense. I’m a politician, not a businessman,” he told reporters in Dushanbe on February 28.

According to Radio Liberty, the shock allegation was first made by Afghanistan’s 1TV channel, which said the powerful politician had been "behind the smuggling attempt" involving "dozens of kilograms of gold and millions of dollars" in cash that were discovered and seized by Tajik customs officials.

The channel reportedly dropped the bombshell claim on its primetime news program on February 27, the day Katawazai arrived in Dushanbe on an official visit.  He was part of a parliamentary delegation led by Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the Wolosi Jirga.

1TV said it obtained its information linking Katawazai to the smuggled money from multiple sources but didn’t disclose their identities.  The broadcaster also didn't produce any evidence to back its claims, according to Radio Liberty.

The broadcaster reportedly also alleged that several other people -- including police, local government officials, and customs services workers -- have been involved in the smuggling.