A court in Dushanbe has convicted two private business owners of defrauding more than 200 impoverished Tajiks through a fake job recruitment scheme that falsely guaranteed them employment at an auto plant in the Czech Republic.

A court in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district sentenced Bakhtiyor Arabov, co-owner and director of the Dushanbe-based firm Garduna, to nine years in prison on October 30 after finding him guilty of taking part in a criminal conspiracy to commit fraud.

Tous Khoushqadamova, Garduna's deputy director and chief accountant, was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay the state a fine of about $80,000 on the criminal fraud charge.

The court has yet to issue a verdict for a third Garduna co-owner charged in the case -- Garduna Deputy Director Tohir Rustamov, who is Khushqadamova’s husband.

Authorities say Rustamov has fled Tajikistan and is now thought to be residing in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Despite the verdicts and prison sentences given to Arabov and Khoushqadamova, victims of the scheme who were swindled out of a total of about $250,000 told RFE/RL that they were not satisfied with the court's ruling.

“We don’t care whether they go to prison,” said Zoir Unusov, an unemployed resident of a village near Dushanbe who paid Garduna’s bogus $1,320 “recruitment fee” in September 2018.  “We just want our money back.”

Unusov is among the victims who plan to appeal the court ruling in an attempt to be compensated for their losses.

But he says the court has still not provided the legal documentation on the ruling that is needed to file a formal appeal.

Tajikistan's Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption launched a criminal investigation into Garduna’s fraudulent activities in March 2019 after more than 200 victims across the country registered complaints.