THE SCOOP | Mysterious Wealth: Tajikistan PM’s Wife Bought Luxury Dubai Properties

Published: 27 May 2024

Tajikistan’s prime minister and his wife did not respond to questions about how she was able to afford substantial real estate holdings in their home country, and in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai marinaView of Dubai marina. (Photo: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy Stock Photo)

By Eldiyar Arykbaev (OCCRP), Firuzi Makhmadali (Azda TV), Muhamadjon Kabirov (Azda TV)

The wife of Tajikistan’s prime minister has no known income, and her husband is barred from commercial activities. Yet, Ikhbolkhon Nazirova owns several properties in her home country, and she purchased real estate in Dubai worth about $1.4 million.

Like much in the autocratic Central Asian country, the source of the couple’s wealth is a mystery. There are no free media inside Tajikistan, where President Emomali Rakhmon has spent the last three decades muzzling critics and concentrating power.

But OCCRP and Azda TV –– an online media outlet in exile –– managed to obtain Tajik records revealing that Nazirova owns four apartments and a hotel in Sughd, the province where her husband previously served as governor. And she owns a house in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe.

Kokhir Rasulzoda and his wife Ikhbolkhon NazirovaKokhir Rasulzoda (left) with his wife, Ikhbolkhon Nazirova (right). (Photo: Screenshot of Instagram post shared by azimovafara)Leaked property data shows that Nazirova also bought two villas in Dubai, the Persian Gulf city that is one of the United Arab Emirates.

There is no sign that Nazirova has ever held a well paid job or owned a lucrative company. Her husband, Kokhir Rasulzoda, has been a public official for 24 years, which means he has been forbidden under Tajik law from engaging in business.

Even in his latest post as prime minister, Rasulzoda makes only a modest official salary, according to Edward Lemon, president of the Washington D.C.-based think tank Oxus Society, which focuses on Central Asia.

While Rasulzoda’s prime ministerial position is “largely ceremonial,” Lemon said, it does show that the couple are well-connected to the regime, which he called “kleptocratic.”

“He had a mixed government portfolio and also didn't seem to have too many personal ambitions in terms of his growth within the very authoritarian political system in Tajikistan,” said Lemon. “So I think for those reasons, he was chosen to be prime minister.”

There is no evidence linking Rasulzoda or Nazirova to any corruption scandals, and they did not respond to requests for comment about the sources of their wealth and the property holdings.

From the Silk Road to a Gulf Emirate


Nazirova’s “apart-hotel” rents rooms to short and long term guests in Khujand, the ancient capital of Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province, which once sent goods to Europe along the Silk Road. Today, Khujand is the second largest city in a country the World Bank says is the poorest in Central Asia.

Founded about 2,500 years ago during the Persian empire, Khujand is a world away from the gated communities and skyscrapers that have risen from the sands of Dubai over the past few decades.

Nazirova has a foot in both worlds.

Leaked real estate data from the Dubai Unlocked project reveals that Nazirova bought two villas within 200 meters of each other in Mira Oasis III, a gated community in the emirate that features an amphitheater, a dog park, swimming pools, and a volleyball court.

Farangez AzimovaNazirova’s daughter, Farangez Azimova sharing her trip to Italy on Instagram. (Photo: Screenshot of Instagram post shared by azimovafara)One of the villas is worth an estimated $738,000, while the other one would sell for about $700,000. The purchase papers list Nazirova’s daughter’s phone number as a contact.

Nazirova’s daughter, Farangez Azimova, also owns real estate in Dubai, according to the leaked data. In 2011, she purchased a villa in a gated community called Meadows. She was only 24-years-old when she bought the property, which is today worth about $5.4 million.

Azimova, who is reportedly a fashion designer, is married to Zafar Azimov, a businessman and son of former Tajik prime minister Yahyo Azimov. The younger Azimov co-owns a private equity firm that invests in manufacturing, real estate and healthcare in Russia, Tajikistan and the U.S.

The couple appear to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle; her Instagram posts show frequent travels to countries including France, Austria, the U.K. and Czech Republic. They did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Incorruptible minister’


While Azimova may benefit from her husband’s business ventures, the information available shows no source of significant wealth for her mother.

Nazirova is not registered with Tajikistan’s Tax Committee as an entrepreneur, which is required to run a small business in the country. She owns no companies, according to corporate registry data available until 2018. Nazirova was head of a cultural center in Khujand, but she is not known to have held a job in the private sector.

There is almost no media reporting about Nazirova, at least in part because of what Human Rights Watch has called Tajikistan’s continuing “repression of independent and critical voices.” But a person who worked as Rasulzoda’s press officer when he was governor of Sughd posted a glowing profile of the prime minister and his wife on his personal website.

Khujand, Sughd Province in TajikistanKhujand, Sughd Province in Tajikistan. (Photo: Emily Marie Wilson/Alamy Stock Photo)

The 2020 article recounts a trip the couple took to a rural area of the province to help local farmers harvest cotton. “I would never think that the governor’s wife would come to pick cotton,” one farmer reportedly said, adding, “She picked cotton like a cotton harvesting machine.”

The profile emphasizes Rasulzoda’s blue collar background, noting that he worked in construction and engineering at a state-owned enterprise before entering politics in 2000, when he was appointed Minister of Land Reclamation and Water Resources.

Rasulzoda gained a reputation as being "the most incorruptible Tajik minister," the former press officer wrote. On the family front, the article says Rasulzoda “married his first love,” and that he and Nazirova raised three children.

“Along with being a kind lady and an exceptional housewife, Ikhbolkhon (Nazirova) has a remarkable talent for creating beauty,” the article said.