19:31 / 25.09.2023

Founder of pharmaceutical company that supplied Health Ministry with iodine preparations wanted in the USA 

Following the mass poisoning of children in various regions of Uzbekistan, the use of iodine preparation Antistrumin was temporarily stopped. This drug was purchased from SAMO LLC. Kun.uz inquiry revealed that one of the founders of this enterprise fled from the USA many years ago. An American court found him guilty of human trafficking and financial crimes. 

Photo collage: Kun.uz 

How the development of events began 

From September 20, 2023, a free iodine distribution program for children aged 3 to 15 years has been started in Uzbekistan. A day later, on September 21, symptoms of fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain began to be observed among kindergarten children in Chust district, and a total of 71 children were admitted to the hospital. 

Deputy Minister of Health Elmira Bositkhonova reported that the number of children who complained exceeded 400, but denied that they were poisoned by medicine or food. 

However, in the letter signed by Elmira Bositkhonova, it was stated that potassium drugs may be the reason for the worsening of the condition of children in Namangan, therefore, an order was given to immediately stop the use of the drug “Potassium iodide 1 mg (0.001) tablet #100 (Antistrumin)”. 

Due to this instruction letter, the public learned important information: the “suspect” drug was produced by SAMO LLC. Uzmedimpeks, under the Ministry of Health, bought the drug from this company. 

According to public information, the Yunusovs are the founders of SAMO company, and among them is Nodir Yunusov, who owns about 7% of the company’s shares. 

In addition, Nodir Yunusov is one of the founders of 2 other enterprises related to pharmaceuticals. 

Who is Nodir Yunusov? 

Against the background of these events, opinions spread on social networks that one of the founders of the company producing iodine for children in Uzbekistan is a wanted person in the United States. 

According to the information on the website of the US official agencies, a citizen of Uzbekistan named Nodir Yunusov is wanted. 

It is known that in 2005, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security started an investigation against the company “Giant Labor Solutions”, which engaged in the forced employment of Uzbeks and other foreign illegal immigrants. 

Special services monitored the activities of the GLC company for 4 years. As a result, in 2009, company officials were charged with forced labor and labor contract fraud. 

In January 2010, the court indicted GLC members in dozens of cases. The 11 people indicted are said to have engaged in human trafficking, including fraudulent recruitment, rights violations and financial extortion. 

In 2009, Abrorkhoja Askarkhojayev, who was seen as the head of the criminal group, was captured. The rest managed to escape from the United States. 

Among them are citizens of Uzbekistan – 32-year-old Rustamjon Shukurov, 35-year-old Sanjar Azamov and 30-year-old Nodir Yunusov. 

These individuals are still on the wanted list of the US ICE. They are listed among the “most wanted”, that is, people who are most wanted for serious crimes. 

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked anyone with information about these wanted individuals to contact the following numbers: +1 866 347-24-23 

Are SAMO founder and US wanted man the same person? 

In order to clarify the situation, Kun.uz correspondent contacted Jasurbek Abdullayev, director of SAMO LLC, and asked: “Is Nodir Yunusov really wanted in the USA?” Jasurbek stated that he is not authorized to answer this issue and will clarify and answer later. But there was no answer to our question. 

Also, we compared the photos of Nodir Yunusov, who participated in one of the events held by the “Samofarm” company, and those wanted by the US ICE, and witnessed that they are similar persons. 

During the investigation, two independent sources confirmed that Nodir Yunusov, wanted by the US, is the same person as one of the founders of SAMO LLC in Uzbekistan. 

Kun.uz was also interested in another aspect of the issue and contacted Uzmedimpeks, the organization responsible for state procurement of the Health Ministry. According to the representative of the organization, SAMO LLC was selected on the basis of a tender for the purchase of iodine preparations. But it was not possible to find information about this purchase on the State Procurement Portal. 

It should be recalled that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev personally learned about the situation. Saida Mirziyoyeva, assistant to the president, was in Namangan on behalf of the head of state and received information about the condition of the children. Also, a criminal case has been initiated under Article 257-1 of the Criminal Code (violation of sanitary legislation or anti-epidemic regulations), and investigative efforts are being conducted by the PGO.