Soviets Uncover Massive Corruption : Billions Lost in Uzbekistan Case Involving Brezhnev Kin
A five-year investigation has uncovered bribery and corruption that cost the Uzbekistan Soviet Republic at least $6.5 billion and involved high-ranking officials including the son-in-law of the late Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev, Pravda said Saturday.
The official Communist Party newspaper said the corruption was institutionalized, and that involved officials and millionaire entrepreneurs in the Central Asian republic hired bodyguards and bought police protection.
Together with another recent article and the renaming Jan. 6 of a city, town squares and a Moscow neighborhood that had been named for Brezhnev, the story appeared to convey the message that Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s leadership will not tolerate the corruption, stagnation and bureaucracy of Brezhnev’s era.
Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982.
Pravda said the corruption in Uzbekistan involved the Soviet Union’s first deputy interior minister, a post held from 1980-1985 by Yuri M. Churbanov, Brezhnev’s son-in-law. Churbanov was married to Brezhnev’s daughter, Galina.
Clear Reference to Churbanov
Pravda did not identify Churbanov by name, but the reference was clear because there had been no other first deputy interior minister during the period.
Soviet officials announced last February that Churbanov had been arrested and accused of corruption and accepting bribes, but they did not tie him to the investigation in Uzbekistan.
The paper said officials arrested included the premier and a deputy president of Uzbekistan, and top Communist party officials at the republic and local levels.
At least $6.5 billion of state money disappeared from the republic’s cotton industry, but authorities have found only a small percentage of it, the report said.
“Not one question was decided without bribes. He who gave bribes got everything. The question stood this way: either leave your post or live according to the law of criminals,” investigators were quoted as saying.
The investigation swept up many minor officials who had little option but to participate in the corruption, Pravda said.
In addition, blackmail and extortion groups in Uzbekistan pressured those who made illegal millions, and the underground millionaires responded by hiring gunmen for personal bodyguards, the newspaper said.
The Pravda article was printed several days after the weekly Literary Gazette revealed that Akhmadzhan Adylov, the head of an agricultural complex in Uzbekistan, had built a fiefdom with a private court system and an underground jail that was built by up to 1,000 workers.
Signal on Corruption
The two articles, striking for their detail even in the atmosphere of openness fostered by Gorbachev, apparently were a signal that those found guilty of corruption would be treated harshly.
At least two officials already have been sentenced to death.
Pravda revealed that investigators sent from Moscow to Uzbekistan arrested Abduvakhid Karimov, the head of the Bukhara Communist Party, after an all-night party at his country house.
Soviet media reported that Karimov had been sentenced to be shot for corruption. In August, 1986, Vakhbozhan Usmanov, the former cotton minister of the republic, also was sentenced to death.