The Shadow Investor

Credit: James O'Brien/OCCRP
Published: April 27, 2023

For years, one man colluded with corrupt customs officials to dominate the vast flow of Chinese imports — everything from t-shirts to high-end electronics — that sustain Central Asia.

He raked in massive profits. He built powerful secret alliances. His employee admitted to laundering hundreds of millions of dollars on his behalf. Then he was exposed, his top government patron pleading guilty to corruption and landing on a sanctions list.

You’d think the authorities would crack down. But you’d be wrong.

Today, Khabibula Abdukadyr and his family have transformed their shadowy fortune into a global empire. The same companies that were used to funnel laundered funds have become investors in expansive real estate developments, gleaming residential and office towers, mosques, markets, factories, and more.

This is the story of how a man accused of building a vast smuggling empire has turned himself and his brothers into big-time businessmen — as Central Asian governments welcomed their money with open arms.



The Abdukadyr Family Made a Fortune in Collusion With Corrupt Central Asian Officials. Now They've Built a Global Business Empire.

Their trading monopoly, built on bribery and alleged smuggling, was exposed. But that hasn't stopped the secretive Khabibula Abdukadyr and his relatives. With new political alliances and projects worth billions around the world, they’re more powerful than ever.

27 April 2023 Read the article

They Were Accused of Smuggling. Now They’re Partnering With the Uzbek State.

The Abdukadyr family earned hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to their alliance with corrupt officials in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Now their trading business is booming in Uzbekistan — where President Mirziyoyev’s government has welcomed them with open arms.

27 April 2023 Read the article

With Backing from Uzbek State, Family Implicated in Smuggling Secretly Funds The Transformation Of Tashkent’s Skyline

President Mirziyoyev promised reforms and transparency. But among the top foreign investors pouring money into his new Uzbekistan are the Abdukadyrs, a secretive family who made their fortune on bribery and political patronage.

27 April 2023 Read the article

The Lies That Kept A Central Asian Money Launderer's Cash Flowing

For years, the Abdukadyr family’s self-confessed money launderer sent their money abroad using a variety of invented pretexts. Some U.S. bank officers got suspicious — but the transactions continued.

27 April 2023 Read the article

Friend of Kyrgyz President’s Son Revealed as Co-Owner of Construction Company Behind High-Profile Property Developments

President Sadyr Japarov has promoted two major projects — a large mosque and a complex in the center of Bishkek — that will be developed by an infamous tycoon accused of smuggling. The projects also appear to have a personal connection to the president’s family.

11 September 2023 Read the article

Two Families, Notorious for Enabling Corruption in Kyrgyzstan, United in Marriage

Raimbek Matraimov, a shadowy Kyrgyz political operator, has long denied his ties to Khabibula Abdukadyr, the secretive tycoon who made millions in alleged smuggling with his help. In 2021, his son married Khabibula’s daughter.

11 September 2023 Read the article

About the Project

Previous Investigations

Plunder and Patronage in the Heart of Central Asia

Our initial investigation about Khabibula Abdukadyr and how his alliance with Kyrgyz customs officials enabled him to build a Central Asian trading monopoly. Based on documents provided by Abdukadyr’s self-confessed money launderer, who was gunned down in Istanbul weeks before publication.

21 November 2019 Read the stories

The Matraimov Kingdom

In 2020, we investigated the continued political influence and unexplained wealth of Raimbek Matraimov, Khabibula Abdukadyr’s ally in the Kyrgyz customs service. His political ambitions helped spark a revolution — and he has since been convicted of corruption.

18 February 2019 Read the stories

Project Credits

This project is a collaboration between the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Ozodlik (Uzbekistan), Vlast (Kazakhstan), and Kloop (Kyrgyzstan).

Editing: Miranda Patrucic, Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, Julia Wallace, Drew Sullivan, Pete Baumgartner

Writing: Ilya Lozovsky, Carl Schreck, Miranda Patrucic

Coordination: Eldiyar Arykbaev

Reporting: Kelly Bloss, Martin Young, and nearly a dozen more reporters, including a number from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, worked on these stories. Most cannot be named to protect their safety.

Fact Checking: Olena LaFoy, Dima Stoianov, Sergiu Ipatii

Translation: Ilia Donskih, Alyona Korolyova

Design and Graphics: James O'Brien, Edin Pašović

Promotion: Charles Turner, Maria Semendyaeva, Samuel Brooke

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