Russian billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov, whose holding company AFK Sistema owns a 51% stake in Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), has announced that the Russian mobile company intends to resume operations in Uzbekistan after being driven out of the country by state authorities. Bloomberg Businessweek writes that MTS plans to set up a new company which would be part-owned by the Uzbek government, with Evtushenkov adding that ‘We may return as soon as this year.’ The tycoon went on to explain that most of the terms for MTS to return to the market have already been agreed with one exception, although Evtushenkov declined to elaborate further. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, then the largest cellco in the country, MTS Uzbekistan had its licences revoked in August 2012 and the cellco was issued with a USD600 million penalty. The company faced a host of accusations, including tax evasion, money laundering and fraud charges, as well as charges of violating anti-monopoly, consumer protection and advertising laws. MTS claimed throughout the proceedings that the cellco was on the receiving end of a shake-down by the notoriously corrupt regime, accusing authorities of attempting to illegally appropriate the cellco.
More recently, the government announced earlier this year that state-backed incumbent Uzbektelecom would utilise the frequencies relinquished by MTS to launch its own GSM network to operate in parallel with its existing CDMA-450 platform.