Paris (27/10 – 40)
An independent investigation done by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has found that the little-known daughter of Tajikistan’s president has built a medical empire that is generously supported by the state with finance and PR, and her husband, who is ambassador to Turkey, provides her with lobbying services.
Parvina Rakhmonova – fifth daughter of the president Emomali Rahmon. Many relatives of the head of Tajikistan became owners of large fortunes or took high government positions after he came to power more than thirty years ago. Unlike Emomali Rahmon’s other children, Parvina is almost unknown to the general public. She rarely appears in publicly available family photographs and is not mentioned in website of the Embassy of Tajikistan in Turkey where her husband has been working since 2021 Ashraf Gulov. We have not been able to determine her date of birth, but it is known that she has at least one adult daughter.
Parvina Rakhmonova controls a company that, with the help of administrative resources, has become the leader of the pharmaceutical market in Tajikistan in six years. Founded in 2017, Sifat Pharma receives multimillion-dollar government contracts and owns a network of nearly twenty pharmacies in the capital Dushanbe. When the Tajik government purchased imported ventilators and medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic, her company acted as an intermediary.
Parvina Rakhmonova’s business illuminated the country’s state television was exclusively complimentary, and representatives of the Ministry of Health were present at the company’s opening ceremony.
The fact that Parvina Rakhmonova is the sole owner of Sifat Pharma is not publicly broadcast either by government agencies or in the press, but is recognized behind closed doors.
A Tajik entrepreneur working in the healthcare sector told RFE/RL that at business meetings in Dushanbe, the director of one of the Sifat Pharma branches emphasizes that the company is owned by the president’s daughter.
We also managed to find out that: the director of Sifat Pharma, Sherali Kholov, owns shares in the International Bank of Tajikistan. As established by the previous investigation, this bank is associated with the brother of Ashraf Gulov, the husband of Parvina Rakhmonova.
The director of a subsidiary of Sifat Pharma advises competitors not to apply for government tenders in which his company is participating. Two entrepreneurs working in the same market sector reported that President Rahmon facilitated the business ties between his daughter’s company and a French pharmaceutical corporation; a subsidiary of Sifat Pharma owned by Parvina Rakhmonova’s daughter and they had received government contracts.
At the end of September 2017, the founding ceremony of Sifat Pharma took place in a building near the presidential residence in Dushanbe: in a solemn atmosphere, officials and guests walked through an arch of pink and white balloons. First Deputy Minister of Health Said Umarzoda in her speech then noted that the company would play “an outstanding role in providing the population with quality medicines” and “in the development of the country’s pharmaceutical sector,” the statement said. report on the ministry’s website. The event was also covered by national news outlets.
According to the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan, the company at that time had already signed contracts with “ministries of health and pharmaceutical manufacturers from Belarus, Iran and India to provide the population of Tajikistan with medicines that meet international standards.”
By that time, the company had only officially existed for five months. Sifat Pharma was registered on May 2, 2017, its sole owner is Parvina Rakhmonova, who owns a full stake in the company. However, Rakhmonova is not in photographs of the opening ceremony, and her name is not mentioned by ministry representatives. However, her father-in-law, former Minister of Industry and Energy Sherali Gul, was present at the ceremony.
The mention on the official website of the ministry is not the only assistance that Rakhmonova’s company received from the state.
From its inception until September 2023, Sifat Pharma has secured government contracts worth $5.5 million to supply medicines to the Ministry of Health and a few other government healthcare organizations. Two Sifat Pharma subsidiaries – medical clothing manufacturer Sifat Sanoat and healthcare provider Tibbi Tojik – won government tenders worth more than $326,000.
Determining the total value of Rakhmonova’s business empire is not easy. The Tajik government does not publish data on tax payments by companies and income and property declarations of officials (Rakhmonova’s husband would have to provide such data as an ambassador). In 2019, the head of the Civil Service Agency of Tajikistan said that Tajik society was “not ready” for the publication of mandatory declarations on the property and income of officials and their relatives. “As soon as the level of mentality and understanding of society becomes equal to the level of Western society, we will definitely offer this”, remark made by the head of the agency, Juma Davlatzoda at a press conference.
However, according to the Sifat Pharma website, the company owns 18 pharmacies in Tajikistan, 16 of which are located in Dushanbe.
Customs documents showed that Sifat Pharma has imported $3.2 million worth of goods (mostly medicines) since 2018; Data for the previous period were unavailable. The real amount is likely much higher, since many lots do not have a value listed.
In addition, Rakhmonova’s company received government support at the highest level. In November 2019, President Rahmon, during a trip to France met with investors and entrepreneurs to discuss “opportunities for expanding commercial and economic relations,” the presidential administration said in a report.
As a result of this meeting, at which Rahmon made a speech about investment opportunities in Tajikistan, Sifat Pharma, along with other Tajik companies, signed partnership agreements with the French pharmaceutical company Laboratoire Innotech.
A few months later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Rakhmonova’s company that supplied imported ventilators and medicines to the Tajik government. In April 2020, the state paid 11 million somoni (about $1.1 million at the then exchange rate) for medicines and 27 ventilators produced by the German company Lowenstein Medical Technology. Sifat Pharma brokered the deal, according to the health ministry itself.
Lowenstein Medical Technology did not respond to our email with questions about the ventilators and their cost, and did not respond to telephone messages left with the company.
Released October 2021 official overview of investment opportunities in Tajikistan calls Sifat Pharma one of the three “key” companies in the country’s pharmaceutical market.
Since Emomali Rahmon took over the country in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, his children, their spouses and in-laws have owned vast fortunes and wielded great political influence in Tajikistan, which has a population of 10 million. Three of Rahmon’s nine children hold high government positions. In particular, 35-year-old Rustam Emomali, chairman of the upper house of parliament and mayor of Dushanbe, is considered Rahmon’s heir. In the event of his father’s resignation, it is he, as the speaker of the upper house of parliament, who will become the acting head of state.
The media resources controlled by Rustam Emomali also serve the business interests of Parvina Rakhmonova. For example, Dushanbe-TV released a complimentary 20-minute report on Sifat Sanoat, a subsidiary of Sifat Pharma, which also produces medical clothing. It particularly emphasized product quality and the company’s role as a job creator.
In this report, the director of Sifat Sanoat, Khokimsho Idiev, calls on entrepreneurs to create jobs in the country: “I believe that it is necessary to awaken the national feeling of all entrepreneurs so that they contribute to the implementation of the president’s policies. At least in the area of job creation.” Two entrepreneurs working in the same sector of the economy told RFE/RL, on condition of anonymity, that it was Idiev who was putting pressure on competitors not to participate in government tenders for the purchase of medical clothing.
In a Dushanbe TV report, Idiev says that Sifat Sanoat “provides services to medical colleges and the Dushanbe road management.” Sifat Sanoat has received $142,500 in government contracts since March 2019, according to government procurement data reviewed by RFE/RL.
In addition, the interests of the Sifat Sanoat company are lobbied by the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Turkey Ashraf Gulov, who is also the husband of Parvina Rakhmonova.
In July 2022, the Tajik state news agency, Khovar reported a visit to the country by Turkish entrepreneurs “on the initiative and with the help of Ashraf Gulov,” whom Rahmon had appointed as ambassador to Turkey a year earlier.
According to the agency, this visit turned out to be fruitful for the business of Gulov’s wife: a memorandum of understanding was signed between Sifat Sanoat and the Turkish company Dundarlar. The agency’s report shows the Sifat Sanoat logo and shows a woman making medical clothing. Ashraf Gulov did not respond to our request sent to the Tajik Embassy in Turkey.
Gulov had previously used his official position to strengthen the commercial ties of his wife’s company.
In November 2021, Ashraf Gulov organized a webinar on “partnerships between Tajik and Turkish companies from the medical and pharmaceutical sectors,” according to a news note on the website of the Tajik Embassy in Turkey. The webinar discussed the “importance of developing collaboration” in these areas, but no video or minutes of the online meeting were published on the website. In the screenshot of the webinar participants, you can recognize the CEO of Sifat Pharma, Sherali Kholov. Kholov, who on the website of the President of Tajikistan is called a “patriotic entrepreneur” who built a kindergarten in Dushanbe, has business ties not only with Parvina Rakhmonova, but also with other relatives of Gulov. He is also the owner of the International Bank of Tajikistan, which in turn has partnerships relations with two companies of Gulov’s brother Jamshed.
The website of the Tajik Embassy in Turkey states that Ashraf Gulov is married and has five children. But at the same time, neither the name of his wife nor the fact that she is the daughter of President Rahmon is given there.
According to Tajikistan’s trade register, one of Gulov and Rakhmonova’s daughters joined her mother’s business empire: she founded a subsidiary, Sifat Pharma, which also receives government contracts. The company, Sifat Tabobat was founded in February 2018, and the sole owner is Ramzia Gulova, the daughter of Parvina Rakhmonova and Ashraf Gulov and at that time a first-year university student. The company was subsequently renamed Tibbi Tojik and is one of the four subsidiaries of Sifat Pharma.
Source : Sokal Info