Trouble in Tashkent: TeliaSonera accused of paying off Karimova

24 Sep 2012

Sweden’s TeliaSonera has responded to accusations that it paid SEK2.2 billion (USD335.1 million) in bribes in the process of acquiring its Uzbek business. Uznews reports that TeliaSonera’s President Lars Nyberg denied the claims, which had been voiced in a documentary programme that aired on Swedish TV last week. Nyberg claimed that the amount, which was transferred to Gibraltar-registered Takilant was an investment rather than a bribe, though the programme noted close ties between Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the head of Takilant. TeliaSonera will conduct its own investigation and if the accusations – that TeliaSonera’s involvement has indirectly supported human rights violations in Uzbekistan by strengthening the Karimov regime – are confirmed, it may leave the country, Nyberg added. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that at the end of June 2012 Ucell had 7.77 million mobile subscribers giving it a 32.3% share of the market. At that time, MTS Uzbekistan was the largest cellco by subscribers with more than nine million active subscriptions. However, in the subsequent months, MTS has been stripped of its operating licences and had its assets seized by the state for alleged money laundering and tax evasion.

Sweden, Uzbekistan, Telia Company, Ucell (Coscom)