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New asset freeze in TeliaSonera bribe probe

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11:59 CET+01:00
The Stockholm District Court on Tuesday ordered an unprecedented 1.8 billion kronor ($277 million) asset freeze for the Uzbekistan-based partner of Nordic telecom firm TeliaSonera as part of an ongoing bribery investigation.

The order comes after a January 16th ruling by the Svea Court of Appeal which found that the case could be tried in Sweden, even though the representatives of Takilant suspected of bribery have never stepped foot on Swedish soil.

According to the TT news agency, the asset freeze is the biggest in Swedish legal history.

The court stated that there was reasonable suspicion that Gayane Avakyan and another Takilant representative were guilty of “aggravated bribery crimes or participation therein”.

“For sequestration, someone has to be suspected of carrying out a crime and these two people are suspected of aggravated bribery crimes,” said Judge Håkan Larsson to the TT news agency.

The equivalent of 200 million kronor of Takilant's money held in accounts at Nordea bank had been previously been ordered frozen.

Prosecutors suspect that TeliaSonera paid bribes Takilant, which has ties to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in order to set up operations in the central Asian country.

In September, TeliaSonera allegedly paid a bribe worth 2.2 billion kronor to Takilant for a 3G mobile telephone licence and frequencies in Uzbekistan, as well as a 26-percent stake in the Uzbek company Ucell.

Takilant is a Gibraltar-based, one-woman company run by 22-year-old Gayane Avakyan, who has close ties to Karimova.

Karimova herself indirectly contacted one of TeliaSonera's subsidiaries in 2010, explaining she needed more money, according to a source.

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Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler refused to comment on Tuesday's ruling.

TT/The Local/og

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