TeliaSonera Uzbek deal prompts bribery probe

TeliaSonera Uzbek deal prompts bribery probe
The Swedish prosecution authority has launched a preliminary corruption probe into TeliaSonera's licence acquisition in Uzbekistan, the Finnish-Swedish telecom operator said on Wednesday.

Last week Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news programme “Uppdrag granskning” claimed that TeliaSonera had paid 2.2 billion kronor ($333 million) to Takilant Limited to obtain a 3G licence in the country and a 26 percent stake in mobile carrier Ucell.

Takilant is owned by a 22-year-old woman with links to the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

“The anticorruption unit of the Swedish Prosecuting Authorities has now initiated an investigation, which we welcome. TeliaSonera will cooperate fully with the investigation,” the Nordic company said in a statement.

“The Swedish police have collected information from TeliaSonera regarding Uzbekistan,” it said, adding that the company has also launched an external review into the allegations.

Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler confirmed to news agency TT that he was responsible for the investigation but declined to comment further.

“I am convinced that TeliaSonera did not bribe anyone or take part in any money laundering,” chief executive Lars Nyberg said last week, according to the same agency.

He insisted that Takilant was the legitimate owner of the licence TeliaSonera acquired.

However, he acknowledged that “other beneficiaries might be behind the woman”, but said TeliaSonera’s own examination of the issue had turned up nothing.

Bribery carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison in Sweden.

AFP/The Local

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