Uzbek leader scolds senior officials in leaked tape

ALMATY (Reuters) - Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has harshly criticized officials in charge of finance and banking, asserting his power above one of two other members of a triumvirate that has ruled since the death last year of leader Islam Karimov.

FILE PHOTO: Uzbekistan's Prime Minister and interim President Shavkat Mirziyoyev leaves a voting booth at a polling station during a presidential election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Anvar Ilyasov/Pool/File Photo

In a leaked audio recording of a meeting, posted online, a voice recognizable as Mirziyoyev’s berates an official identified by news website as Deputy Central Bank Chairman Saidkamol Khodjaev and criticizing Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov.

The tape confirms that Azimov - one of the ruling triumvirate along with Rustam Inoyatov, head of the SNB state security service - is under pressure. It also suggests Mirziyoyev may make sweeping changes at the central bank which awaits the appointment of a new chairman and is supposed to be preparing a foreign exchange reform.

Sources told Reuters last month that Mirziyoyev has moved to consolidate his power by sidelining Azimov.

In the recording, Mirziyoyev scolds Khodjaev over idleness and corruption among the bank’s lower-level officials.

“Your bankers don’t like to work. Is it possible to make someone work who has enjoyed his post for 10 years? No, because he doesn’t listen to you and gets more money than we do. Don’t be offended, but he gets his bribes,” he says.

He then berates Azimov, who has long been in charge of financial matters, for ignoring those problems.

“If people like Azimov, who have firmly grabbed the system sitting in Tashkent had come down (worked with people in lower levels of the system) we wouldn’t have had this situation,” he says. It is unclear if Azimov was present at the meeting.

Mirziyoyev’s office did not reply to an emailed request for comment from Reuters but it has published a report about a May 30 teleconference chaired by Mirziyoyev in which “officials in charge of certain industries and regions came under strong criticism over lack of responsibility, exactingness and initiative”.

Uzbekistan, a predominantly Muslim nation of 32 million, has been in flux since Karimov died last year after ruling for 27 years. Mirziyoyev became president but effectively shared power with Azimov and Inoyatov.

Azimov’s apparent sidelining effectively leaves Mirziyoyev and security boss Inoyatov as the two men sharing power in Central Asia’s most populous nation.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Robin Pomeroy