Uzbekistan’s currency black market

>>Tightened controls have not dampened the Uzbek black market for cash

TASHKENT, June 10 2013 (Conway Bulletin) – The black market currency traders in Taskhent’s bazaars are hardly inconspicuous.

“Dollars, dollars. Russian roubles,” they say.

Huge wads of cash change hands as people exchange dollars for Uzbek soums. The black market currency trade in Uzbekistan is big business and well established.

With the largest note worth a mere 1,000 soum (roughly 50¢), the piles of money can be hefty. The trade is visible, but the police in Tashkent’s bazaars don’t step in; they’re taking a cut.

This currency black market has traditionally offered better rates than the banks. Changing $1,000 legally will give you about 2 million soum, while on the black market you’ll receive around 2.7 million soum.

Since February, the Uzbek government has banned people from buying cash dollars legally at all. Those needing hard currency must deposit money on debit cards which they can only use abroad.

When this ban on buying dollars came into force it sparked wild black market rate fluctuations and speculation that the government was out to smash this lucrative illegal trade.

Such talk was short-lived, however, and the shadowy forces controlling the black market made a fortune on the exchange rate fluctuations.


This story was first published in issue 138 of The Conway Bulletin. Click here to subscribe.

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