DESCRIBED as a beautiful but deadly James Bond villain, Gulnara Karimova was tipped to succeed her late dictator father as leader of Uzbekistan.
The intelligent and charismatic 47-year-old mixed among the elite of British high society and the cream of the showbiz world.
Among her neighbours at her £30million Gorse Hill Manor mansion, on a gated community in Surrey, was Sir Bruce Forsyth.
But now the Harvard-educated business empire boss, former UN ambassador and pop singer is languishing in jail charged with extorting £661MILLION in bribes.
And this week it emerged her accusers in the gas-rich but corrupt central Asian country are back in court to seize her global assets — including a multi-million-pound property portfolio in the UK.
It is a far cry from the pictures of her at the races with Prince Michael of Kent and at parties with Bill Clinton and Jude Law.
She was also seen alongside Sir Elton John at two of his Aids Foundation events, although a spokesman for the singer denied he knew her and said she was only there as a guest of the sponsors.
Former British ambassador Craig Murray once described the then all-powerful Gulnara as “one hell of a package”.
He said: “She is richer than Paris Hilton, undeniably smarter and arguably sexier — and I’ve met both.
“Harvard MBA, owner of scores of businesses, martial arts black belt, fluent in four languages, professional jewellery designer, poet and performer of a No1 hit pop single.
“Her muscle-bound boyfriend walks respectfully behind her, head bowed.”
She was once tipped to succeed her brutal father Islam Karimov, but the pair fell out as the tyrant drifted into senility.
Prior to 2014, Gulnara — described in a US embassy cable as a “robber baron” and “the single most hated person” in her country — was a feature of Uzbek society.
She regularly posted on social media and had fingers in plenty of pies, including her own perfume and jewellery lines.
Islam Karimov, Gulnara’s father, ruled Uzbekistan from 1989 until his death in 2016[/caption]
Business empire boss Karimova used to mingle with powerful men like Bill Clinton[/caption]
Gulnara Karimova would enjoy parties with the likes of Jude Law[/caption]
The former UN ambassador has been pictured at the races with Prince Michael of Kent[/caption]
‘FRIENDS WITH SORCERERS’
She mingled with shoe designer Jimmy Choo at a fashion week she organised in Uzbek capital Tashkent and sang a duet with French actor Gerard Depardieu and pop songs under the stage name Googoosha.
At her invitation, Sting played a concert in the country, which he believed was sponsored by Unicef. According to reports, he accepted up to £2million to perform, with tickets going for £1,400 — 45 times the average local monthly salary.
Later he said he was, “Well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights”, but had come to believe cultural boycotts were “counter-productive”.
Gulnara married Mansur Maqsudi, an American businessman of Afghanistan Tajik origin, in 1991. They settled in the US and had son Islam and daughter Iman.
When the marriage fell apart in 2001, Gulnara moved back to Uzbekistan with her children, despite an American court granting Mansur custody.
In court papers he accused Gulnara of using her influence in Uzbekistan to cripple his businesses there and have three of his relatives imprisoned.
After leaving her job as a UN ambassador, she expanded her charity, Fund Forum, and began touring the country in what was seen as preparation for a presidential campaign.
Then the tide turned.
Her bank accounts were frozen, her TV and radio channels “went dark” and Fund Forum was investigated for tax evasion.
Gulnara Karimova snapped at the 2012 amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS event in France[/caption]
The despot’s daughter is also a fashion designer, a popstar and a poet[/caption]
She accused younger sister Lola, 41, of being “friends with sorcerers” who had turned their mother Tatiana against her.
She closed down her Twitter account after a rant against Tatiana, who she accused of, “Promising to destroy everything to do with me if I so much as think of ‘messing in her affairs’.”
There were reports she had angered her father after being photographed semi-naked and covered with just a few peacock feathers. Then she disappeared from public view.
When her father died in 2016, she failed to appear at the funeral. Nor was she spotted at any of the 35,000 public prayer vigils held after his death.
Not even some of her own family members knew her whereabouts — so they hired Human Rights Watch researcher Steve Swerdlow to try to locate her.
He said at the time: “This is a woman who could not get enough attention and was everywhere, and no word from her since 2014.”
Many Uzbeks assumed she was dead. But behind closed doors she had been sentenced to ten years in prison for money laundering and embezzlement, which was commuted to house arrest.
Her daughter Iman, 21, later revealed astonishing details about her arrest in early 2014.
Then 15 years old, Iman was studying at boarding school in Brighton and had returned for the holidays.
She told how black-clad commandos landed on the balcony of the Tashkent flat she was staying in with her mother. Visiting friends were led away with hoods on their heads, while the commandos seized electronics and documents, including Iman’s GCSE homework.
She said: “My mum was trying to get through to my grandfather by telephone, but she wasn’t able to.”
Gulnara never saw her father again.
For more than a year, Iman and her mother, plus two members of staff, were holed up in their home in Tashkent.
In a far cry from her previous lifestyle, Karimova is now languishing in jail[/caption]
The ‘robber baron’ has been charged with extorting £661MILLION in bribes[/caption]
TRIAL IN KITCHEN
One of the employees complained that she was not even allowed to visit her family — before committing suicide by drinking industrial vinegar.
It later emerged that in August 2015 there was a trial in Gulnara’s kitchen.
Iman said there was a judge, prosecutors and a government-appointed defence lawyer, who was so nervous he was shaking. Gulnara’s home was then reportedly fitted with metal bars so she could only use one room. However, she is thought to have smuggled out a letter describing her situation.
It told of “severe psychological pressure” as well as beatings.
She wrote: “What makes it all worse is that it is impossible to live like a human when you are watched by cameras, when there are armed men everywhere and when you are depressed because of what you have seen: Special forces jumping on to the roof, your things in a mess, broken windows and doors and worst of all, a blindfolded person who is being dragged along the floor.”
The blindfolded person was thought to be her business partner and rumoured boyfriend, Rustam Madumarov, who was arrested on the same day as two of her closest associates.
In March, Iman released footage of her mother looking bedraggled, wearing a dressing gown and pink slippers and being taken out of her home to jail.
She had broken the terms of her house arrest by leaving the premises and accessing the internet.
A new trial started earlier this month, with the authorities looking to seize her worldwide assets, including her Gorse Hill Manor, an £8million home in Mayfair and £2million apartment in Belgravia, both central London.
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Son Islam, 27, who is believed to live in London, has previously accused the Uzbek authorities of trying to kill his mum, claiming she was a victim of vengeance by jealous cronies of her father.
He said: “They want to eliminate her, most likely by poisoning. They are not interested in freeing her, because then everything will be revealed.
“They will have to answer a lot of questions then. No one could answer these questions.”
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