The Uzbek unit of Russian-backed group Vimpelcom has been given a clean bill of health following a two-month investigation into its financial and operating activities by local tax regulators. According to the Prime news agency, a source from the state tax committee told RIA Novosti: ‘The inspection is complete. The company has received a resolution with some criticism… but no violations of the tax legislation have been found.’ The audit which began at the start of October followed on the heels of a separate probe by the State Inspectorate of Communications (GIS), following which the operator, which operates under the ‘Beeline’ brand, was told that 460 base stations built in 2013 could not be used because it had not received the proper authorisations from the regulator. Beeline is Uzbekistan’s largest cellular operator by subscribers, according to data from TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, with around 55% of the country’s 18.9 million mobile users as of mid-2013.
The Vimpelcom subsidiary has been luckier than former rival MTS Uzbekistan. Authorities began to probe MTS’s operations in June 2012 on the grounds of poor quality of service, before levelling a torrent of accusations at the telco, from failing to acquire permissions for base stations to tax evasion and embezzlement. MTS had its licence suspended and then cancelled shortly afterwards, and declared bankruptcy in January 2013. The company’s Russian parent Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) maintained throughout that it was innocent of the allegations, and that it was the victim of a shakedown by the nation’s notoriously corrupt elite. Gulnora Karimova, the daughter of President Islam Karimov and a former stakeholder in MTS Uzbekistan prior to its takeover by the Russian group, was alleged to have ‘orchestrated’ MTS’s demise.