Authorities in Tajikistan have recently announced a number of high-profile arrests on corruption and narcotics-trafficking charges. Most arrests were triggered by President Emomali Rahmon’s harsh criticism of the “corrupt” and “nepotistic” practices in the country’s military and law-enforcement sectors. During a televised government meeting on January 18, the Tajik leader lashed out at “commanders of military units and top officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] and State Committee for National Security [GKNB],” for granting privileges to their children and relatives (TV Shabakai Yakum, January 19).
Rahmon specifically warned officials against exempting their offspring from possible prosecution, including through the use of “special” car number plates. Such plates have long been used by the Tajik elites as markers of power and wealth, effectively making their owners immune from police checks (www.eurasianet.org, June 13, 2011). The “golden” numbers, such as “7777” and “8888,” have been reserved for the members of Rahmon’s family until, in early January, Tajik security agencies arrested two traffickers who attempted to smuggle almost 110 kilograms of drugs from the Afghan border to Dushanbe in a car with a “golden” number plate. Although the names of the arrested individuals have not been released, authorities announced that one of them is a son of a “retired general” and another one is a child of a “Tajik diplomat” (www.news.tj, January 27).
This incident has led Rahmon to claim that children of senior government officials are frequently involved in criminal dealings, while ordinary people see the “special” number plates and attribute these crimes to “the president’s relatives.” Following the incident, authorities detained a person who had allegedly produced and sold “fake golden numbers” in Dushanbe. Besides, police were ordered to replace all “golden” number plates with the regular ones (www.news.tj, January 14, 16, 19).