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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 10:19 GMT
Tajik jewellery scam trial begins
By Monica Whitlock
BBC correspondent in Dushanbe

The trial has begun in Tajikistan of the head of a jewellery company, Jamshed Siahev, accused of cheating millions of dollars out of would be investors.

It is thought that about 60,000 Tajiks put money into the scheme run by Jamal and Company but ended up with nothing.

Many came out on the street as the trial began in the capital, Dushanbe.

Crowds of weeping women stood outside the gates of the Supreme Court. "We sold our house," one told me, "our car and our horses. We put together $8,000 and lost it all."

I asked why there were so few men at the court. The women said that their husbands had now left Tajikistan to work as migrant labourers abroad

The other women had similar stories.

They have lost colossal sums for a country where a teacher earns perhaps $5 or $10 a month.

Estimates of the total vary wildly between $500,000 and $20m or more.

Some women admitted to talking their husbands into selling everything because they believed in Jamal and Company.

Straightforward scam

The trick was simple. Jamal promised to sell people glass beads and thread to make necklaces and then to buy back the jewellery.

The families paid up but only a few got the beads, which, in any case, were worth only a few pennies.

The jewellery they made is of the very cheapest kind, available in any market around the world, but it was new to Tajikistan.

The whole affair shows how poor Tajikistan is now - one of the poorest countries in the world - and it shows, too, how cut off people are.

The scheme was similar to those run in Albania and Russia in the 1990s, but the Tajiks had not heard of them.

I asked why there were so few men at the court.

The women said that their husbands had now left Tajikistan to work as migrant labourers abroad.


SEE ALSO:
House-price fever grips Tajik rich
15 Aug 03  |  Business
Tajiks approve longer presidency
23 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Tajikistan
24 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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