Uzbek bankers arrested over foreign currency deals

Tashkent, Feb 7 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The heads of several Uzbekistan banks have been detained for making illegal foreign currency transactions, police said Thursday.

Among those arrested are Muzaffar Ermatov, deputy chief executive officer of Ipoteka Bank, and a number of credit organisation managers.

Several executives from Khalk Bank, including the head of its Tashkent branch, are wanted but remain untraced, police said.

The bankers ran a criminal scheme in 2010-2012 to buy foreign currency at the official exchange rate and sell it on the black market at higher rates.

The black market exchange rate in Uzbekistan is about 35 percent higher than the official rate, which is mostly used for compiling statistical data.

Uzbekistan banned the sale of cash foreign currency to individuals from Feb 1, in an apparent move to alleviate a foreign currency deficit in the former Soviet republic, which has suffered from a slump in world commodity prices in recent years, and is exporting less cotton and gas, its major sources of its budget revenues.

Uzbekistan's Tax Committee has warned entrepreneurs and individuals would be held liable for making settlements in cash foreign currency "in the sphere of retail trade and services, including criminal liability".

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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