Karimova loses Uzbek diplomatic immunity

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's president and whose name has surfaced in a corruption case involving Swedish firm TeliaSonera, is no longer her country's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, the Swiss government said Saturday.

Karimova loses Uzbek diplomatic immunity

The Uzbek foreign ministry informed Switzerland on July 9th that the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan’s long-serving President Islam Karimov was no longer her country’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, the Swiss foreign ministry said in an email to AFP.

The ministry refused to provide further comments, but Swiss public broadcaster RTS reported that as a result, Karimova has been stripped of all diplomatic immunity.

Karimov, 75, has ruled Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his 41-year-old Harvard-educated daughter is closely watched as a possible successor to him, although she has repeatedly denied such ambitions.

But since last year, her name has been mentioned in a massive money laundering probe against Swedish-Finnish telecoms giant TeliaSonera.

The telecom company has been accused of bribing a woman with very close ties to Karimova, in a bid to secure a 3G mobile telephone licence and frequencies in Uzbekistan.

RTS said it had received information indicating that a probe into the matter by the Swiss public prosecutor’s office implicates Karimova directly, although she had yet to be notified officially of any charges.

Four people close to her are meanwhile already officially under investigation and Bern has to date frozen some 800 million Swiss francs ($845 million) in assets in connection with the case, RTS reported, without revealing its sources.

The broadcaster also reported that French authorities had carried out searches of three properties owned by Karimova in that country in June, following a request from Swiss prosecutors.

France has reportedly opened its own probe into the matter.

AFP/The Local

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‘Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has been accused of “rotten” business dealings in Azerbaijan, following a separate bribery scandal in Uzbekistan.

'Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera
A TeliaSonera conference in Stockholm last year. Photo: TT

Folksam, which is one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden, has accused the firm of “systematic cheating”, after it emerged that TeliaSonera’s subsidiary in Azerbaijan had ties with the family of Ilham Aliyev, the Arab nation’s leader.

It has been claimed that the dictator’s daughters were shareholders of TeliaSonera's subsidiary Azertel, via a connected company based in Panama.

“It is distressing that in a large Swedish company…people thought that cheating would pay off in the long run,” Carina Lundberg Markow, one of Folksam’s managers told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

She criticized TeliaSonera for failing to act “in an honest and open way” when entering new markets.

“Instead, they choose to pay for success,” she added.

TeliaSonera is one of the biggest telecom operators in the Nordic and Baltic countries and also operates in several emerging markets in Eurasia including Russia and Turkey, as well as Spain. The Swedish state owns 37.3 percent of the company.

Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler is already investigating claims of unethical business practices in Uzbekistan and told TT he had also been given new information concerning potential bribery in Azerbaijan.

The company has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation, handing over what Stetler describes as “extensive information” about “the terms and conditions in Eurasian countries”.

Stetler said he was unable to discuss how he had responded to the information. But calls are growing for TeliaSonera to release a public report about its business dealings.

“Now it is extremely important to create transparency,” said Lundberg Markow.

“This shows the importance of having a set of values when doing business in complex markets or countries,” she added.

TeliaSonera and Norwegian rival Telenor recently merged their operations in Denmark, while the telecoms giant last year purchased rival Tele2's Norwegian division for 5.1 kronor.