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Swedish telecom firm Telia to settle bribery case involving billions in payments to Uzbek official

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Swedish telecom firm Telia to settle bribery case involving billions in payments to Uzbek official
File photo of a Telia building in Stockholm. Photo: Erik Simander/TT
07:00 CEST+02:00
Swedish telecom firm Telia will pay fines of nearly $1 billion to settle a bribery case brought by US, Swedish and Dutch authorities, the US Justice Department announced on Thursday.

Stockholm-based Telia Company AB, whose securities traded in New York, "corruptly built a lucrative telecommunications business in Uzbekistan, using bribe payments wired around the world through accounts here in New York City," Acting US Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement.

Telia and its Uzbek subsidiary, Coscom LLC, "have admitted to paying, over many years, more than $331 million in bribes to an Uzbek government official".

As part of the multinational case, US authorities charged the companies with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in what Kim called "one of the largest criminal corporate bribery and corruption resolutions ever".

In addition to the fines, the company "also agreed to implement rigorous internal controls and cooperate fully with the Department's ongoing investigation, including its investigation of individuals", the statement said.

The probes were opened in March 2014 into alleged payments made to an Uzbek firm to obtain a mobile operating licence as well as a 26 percent stake in the local operator Ucell.

Telia and Coscom admitted paying approximately $331 million in bribes to a Uzbek official, who was a close relative of a high-ranking government official and had influence over the body that regulated the telecom industry.

It was the second resolution by a major international telecommunications provider to settle charges of bribery in Uzbekistan.

READ ALSO: Telia offered to settle in Uzbek probe

In February 2016, Amsterdam-based VimpelCom Limited and its Uzbek subsidiary, Unitel LLC, also admitted to a conspiracy to make more than $114 million in bribery payments to the same Uzbek government official between 2006 and 2012.  That investigation has thus far yielded a combined total of over $1.76 billion in global fines.

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