RAKHIMA GANIEVA, the 18-year-old representing Uzbekistan at the 2013 Miss World pageant in Indonesia has all the right credentials. She's beautiful, sporty, plays the piano and describes herself as "cheerful and serious at the same time".
There's only one problem: no one in Uzbekistan has ever heard of her, says The Times.
The central Asian republic is better known for its exports of gold, uranium and natural gas, than beauty queens. Indeed, officials in Tashkent, the capital, say the country has never staged a Miss Uzbekistan contest.
A spokesman for the Taskent modelling agency where Ganieva trained "briefly" as a 15-year-old told Eurasianet.org that she "never passed through any special selection process in Uzbekistan".
"If there had been a process to choose a young lady for this competition, I can assure you that a much more beautiful model would have been chosen," he added. "I'm sorry that Ganieva is choosing to build a career on lies."
So, who is Ganieva? Her biography on the official Miss World website reveals that she's "very exited and happy" to be representing Uzbekistan at the 63rd Miss World contest. She adds that she's handy with a tennis racket, likes to study history and loves weighty Russian authors including Chekhov, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
In a video posted on site, Ganieva says she's enrolled at Tashkent's University of World Economy and Diplomacy, but the university says it has no record of her.
There is confusion too at the Uzbek Culture and Sports Ministry and the National Committee on Women. Neither of them know anything about Ganieva's participation in the Miss World contest, Eurasianet.org says.
Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's president Islam Karimov, took to Twitter to express her disgust. She described Ganieva as a "Tajik-looking girl" who "appeared out of nowhere".
So far, the organisers of the Miss World pageant have made no comment on their mysterious entrant. It is unclear if she will take part in the televised event which takes place in Jakarta on 28 September. ·