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Uzbek leader's daughter targeted in French laundering probe

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Gulnara Karimova poses backstage at the Guli fashion show in New York, on September 10, 2010. French authorities are investigating a money laundering case that targets Karimova, the Uzbek leader's daughter, among others, a judicial source has told AFP. (Getty Images/AFP/File)

French authorities are investigating a money laundering case that targets Gulnara Karimova, the Uzbek leader's daughter, among others, a judicial source said Friday.

The glamorous eldest daughter of Islam Karimov, who has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Karimova was educated at Harvard and is closely watched as a possible successor to her 75-year-old father.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said a French probe was opened in February into "money laundering by an organised gang" and "corruption of a foreign official", in a case allegedly involving Karimova.

The case centres around real-estate, including a villa in the south of France, added the source close to the case.

Karimova has become the public face of her ex-Soviet country that borders Afghanistan, and until recently served as its permanent representative in the United Nations in Geneva.

The 41-year-old has denied any ambitions to replace her father.

But earlier this year, she posted critical tweets of Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov -- considered to be one of the most influential officials serving under Karimov -- prompting speculation of a struggle between the two would-be successors.

Karimova also runs her own jewellery and clothing lines, heads a number of charity projects and is also known as a pop star under the name of GooGoosha.

She has released a pop duet with French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has also agreed to star in a historic serial penned by Karimova.

But since last year, her name has been mentioned in a massive money laundering probe against Swedish-Finnish telecoms giant TeliaSonera.

Swiss public broadcaster RTS has said it received information indicating that a probe into the matter by the Swiss public prosecutor's office implicates Karimova directly, although she has yet to be notified officially of any charges.

Four people close to her are meanwhile already officially under investigation and Bern has to date frozen some 800 million Swiss francs ($845 million, 647 million euros) in assets in connection with the case, RTS reported.

Karimova has lashed out several times at Western media reports criticising her as a money-grabbing tyrant or as the wannabe pop star daughter of a dictator, accusing them of using her for "target practice".