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200 stolen cars 'owned by Tajikistan elite'

2013-12-20 09:06

STRAINED RELATIONS: About 200 cars stolen from Germany are reportedly in the possession of by family and friends of Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon. Image: AFP

BERLIN, Germany - About 200 cars stolen in Germany have been tracked down in Tajikistan, where most are being driven by family and friends of President Emomali Rakhmon.

The case of the German-registered cars, including 93 BMWs located via their GPS systems, has caused friction between Germany and the Central Asian country, reports Bild.

'COMPLETELY UNFOUNDED'

The German foreign ministry had not confirmed it had contacted the Tajik ambassador over the case but a spokeswoman said: "There have been talks with the Tajik side on co-operation in fighting organised crime".

The Tajik embassy denied the claim as "completely unfounded" , stating that the charge aimed "to damage the reputation of the nation and the head of state".

It said that in order to resolve the wider case of the stolen cars, "the Tajik side has already declared its willingness and all-round support toward the German embassy in Dushanbe and the (German) foreign ministry".

Berlin justice department spokeswoman Lisa Jani said the stolen cars were located in Tajikistan by the "Westwind" task force of German and Lithuanian investigators.

When Tajik authorities failed to respond to requests to help in the investigation, Berlin's justice minister Thomas Heilmann wrote to Germany's then-foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, reports AFP.

TAJIK ELITE

Heilmann said: "Most of the vehicles are in the possession of people who have business or family ties with the family of the Tajik president."

Tajikistan had to date not replied to the request for legal assistance or taken steps to return the cars, she added.

The Tajik embassy said that cars imported across its borders had already passed through several countries and changed owners but were all checked by customs and were required to have legal documentation.

It stressed that Tajikistan is a member of Interpol, respects its international commitments and treats any request for international legal assistance according to its national laws.

Tajikistan said: "We have asked the German authorities to provide information from its database of stolen cars to Tajikistan authorities to prevent their illegal import into the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan. However, this has not happened."

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