Chairperson of Rasht district Rahimjon Nabizoda (Muqimi) and head of Rasht chairperson’s office Kholmuhammad Ortiqov have been detained by anticorruption officers on suspicion of being involved in corruption. They are suspected of illegal allotment of lands to entrepreneurs.
Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, citing its source, says Nabizoda and Ortiqov were detained in their offices on January 22 in the presence of witnesses.
Radio Ozodi’s source says the anticorruption agency has received complaint that the district head is engaged in illegal allotment of land plots to entrepreneurs for construction in the district administrative center.
The district head was reportedly caught red-handed while taking a bribe in the amount of 10,000 U.S. dollars. “The intermediary – the head of the district head’s office — had to give him the bribe. Both officials were detained when giving and taking the bribe,” the source said.
Information about detention of the district chairperson and heads of his office was published on the Facebook page of local activist Sa’dullo Khudoyorov.
Meanwhile, another source of Radio Ozodi, who wanted to remain unnamed, says that the Rasht chairperson Rahimjon Nabizoda was soon released because he has parliamentary immunity as member of the Majlisi Milli (Tajikistan’s upper chamber of parliament).
As far as Kholmuhammad Ortiqov is concerned, criminal proceedings have been instituted against him over charge of fraud and an investigation is under way.
The Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption and other law enforcements agencies neither confirmed nor denied the information about detention of the Rasht chairman.
Rahimjon Nabizoda (Muqimi), 61, had previously served as head of the district finance and deputy head of the Rasht district. He had served as head of the Rasht district since 2019.
Kholmuhammad Ortiqov, 64, had served as head of the Rasht district chairperson’s office since 2017. Prior to this he had headed the district education department.
Recall, Tajik Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon told reporters in Dushanbe on February 2, 2021 that 296 officials were persecuted in 2020 for illegal allotment of lands.
Radio Liberty reported in November 2020 that an investigation carried out by it revealed that the high demand for land parcels in Roudaki district has led to corruption in the distribution of land in the district, despite measures announced by state to root out “illegal land sales” in the sought-after district.
Multiple sources in Roudaki district reportedly claimed that former district head Rustam Akramzoda had fast-tracked several of his own relatives and acquaintances to obtain free land parcels.
The investigation also revealed that some those who got the land illegally have a personal connection to Akramzoda, who was appointed only in 2018 to specifically fight illegal land deals, a longstanding problem in Roudaki district.
Akramzoda, who was dismissed from his post in a reshuffle on November 24, 2020, however, denied any wrongdoing.
But documents obtained by RFE/RL reportedly indicate that at least 10 people with a connection to Akramzoda have jumped to the front of the line to receive land parcels in 2020. Others, meanwhile, wait for years before being offered land.
In Tajikistan, laws ban the private sale of land. Agricultural land can only be leased from the state. People can also receive a plot of land — free of charge — from their local government to build a home.
Only people who don’t have their own home are eligible for a land parcel in the district where they are registered as a permanent resident.
Applications for the parcels of land are made to the district governor and the governor either approves the request, sends it to local authorities in each area for a final decision, or rejects the request if the applicant is deemed ineligible.
The application must be accompanied by a lot of documentation, including a letter from the local authorities in the applicant’s home village or town to verify the applicant’s account of their personal circumstances and their genuine need for land.