The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

"/> The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

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ENERGY

Uzbek gas exports ‘controlled through Swiss firm’

The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The Uzbek president’s daughter controlled central Asia’s hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm that handled 80 percent of the country’s gas exports, US diplomatic cables showed Thursday.

According to the newspaper Le Temps, which obtained the cables from WikiLeaks, the documents showed that Gulnara Karimova was the effective boss of Zeromax, a Swiss-based energy firm which was declared bankrupt in August 2010.

According to a 2007 cable quoted by the Swiss paper, Zeromax “siphons off 80 percent of natural gas exports” of Uzbekistan.

“Through Zeromax, Gulnara Karimova controlled tightly the hydrocarbon sector of the third biggest gas producer of the ex-USSR,” it added.

The 38-year-old daughter of Uzbekistan’s veteran President Islam Karimov is a “key intermediary for all contracts,” according to the cable.

Another cable dated 2010 said that Zeromax was one of the “main Swiss recipients of funds from Uzbekistan”. This contributes to making Switzerland the second biggest trading parter of the central Asian state, said Le Temps.

According to the newspaper, US diplomats estimated the annual business of the company at $3 billion, which corresponds to 10 percent of the country’s annual output.

Karimova has been living since 2008 in the chic Geneva suburb of Cologny, after she was named Uzbekistan’s representative to the United Nations.  

According to the cables, the appointment was regarded by some observers as a way to tighten control over Zeromax.

It could also be a pre-emptive move to ensure that the Karimovs have an overseas base were they to lose power or leave the country, added the cables.

ENERGY

Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

Due to soaring prices, the Norwegian government is mulling over several solutions, including a potential price cap for electricity and limiting energy exports abroad. 

Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

High energy exports in the last 12 months, low filling levels in Norwegian reservoirs and an uncertain energy situation around Europe have led to soaring electricity prices in southern Norway. 

Last year the government introduced a scheme whereby it covers 80 percent of consumers’ energy bills where the price rose above 70 øre/kWh. The portion of the bill under 70 øre is paid in full by households. The portion the government covers will increase to 90 percent in October. 

Critics have argued that the current scheme still leaves households struggling with their bills. As a result, Norway’s government has said it is mulling its options to curb energy bills.

Norway primarily depends on hydroelectric dams to help it meet its energy needs. Still, reservoirs in southern Norway have been at the lowest level for ten years, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Low reservoir filling over the past year has conceded with record exports with higher prices on the continent, making sending power abroad an enticing proposition.

Recently, exports have fallen significantly, and the government is considering introducing a limit to reduce the possibility of energy rationing being introduced this winter. 

“Restrictions on the export of electricity to Europe may be one of the measures that is needed,” Elisabeth Sæther, state secretary at the Ministry of Oil and Energy, told NRK. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre ruled out completely shutting off exports to the continent. 

“It is a dangerous thought and will not serve us well. It could give us more expensive power and lack of power in given situations. We will hardly be able to import power when we need it without contributing to other countries when they need it. There is a reciprocity in this,” he told the newspaper Aftenposten earlier in the week. 

Sæther also told NRK that the government was weighing up putting a maximum price on energy but warned that it could have unforeseen consequences. 

“We are afraid that a maximum price means that more water is drawn into the reservoirs, which we need for the winter. It is a serious situation. We must prevent ourselves from getting into a situation where we lack enough power this winter,” she told the broadcaster. 

At the end of May, the state-owned Statnett announced that the supply situation in Norway might be under strain – in some scenarios – all the way up to and through the winter, especially if Southern Norway experiences drier than usual weather in the second part of the year. 

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