The Tashkent Economic Court has backed a request by the Uzbekistan Agency for Communication and Information (UzACI) to cancel the operating licences held by MTS Uzbekistan. MTS has been under fire from Uzbek authorities for the last two months, with the watchdog accusing the cellco of a slew of regulatory and criminal infractions, varying from failure to acquire the correct permissions for base stations to laundering cash and tax evasion. The cellco had originally had its licence suspended for ten days, which was later extended to 90. The Russian-backed operator strongly refutes the accusations.
A senior MTS official called the court session a ‘20-minute show’, adding that it was a ‘clear violation of the basic rights of fair trial and due process,’ Radio Free Europe reports. The official went on: ‘We invested over USD1 billion into the company. We believe the equity value of the company is also somewhere in this area. And it becomes very clear that all the fabricated amounts that we are due to pay according to those statements of the Uzbek authorities that they equal, more or less, the equity value, because then [the government] will just simply expropriate the company. They will basically say, “We’ll take the company” and
UzDaily also reports that the office of the Prosecutor General has released the acting director general of MTS Uzbekistan, Radik Dautov, after he signed a written undertaking not to attempt to leave the country. Dautov, a Russian citizen, was made acting director after the company’s head, Behzod Ahmedov fled the country at the start of the investigation. The Prosecutor General’s Office claims that the damage from ‘criminal activities’ of MTS’s management totalled around UZS700 billion (USD365.85 million).