Swedish authorities probe TeliaSonera’s Uzbek operations

Swedish authorities probe TeliaSonera’s Uzbek operations

Swedish authorities have opened a preliminary probe into a deal made by Nordic carrier TeliaSonera in Uzbekistan.

The development follows a report last week alleging corruption in an acquisition the company made to enter the Uzbek market in 2007.

TeliaSonera said that it was cooperating with prosecution authorities and welcomed the preliminary investigation.

The story, which aired on TV programme Mission:Investigate, alleged that Takilant Ltd, the company that TeliaSonera paid $30 million to in 2007 for a 3G licence, frequencies and a 26% stake in mobile operator Ucell, had close ties with the daughter of Uzbek president, Islam Karimov.

Before the programme was aired TeliaSonera released a statement saying that at the time of the acquisition it had carried out a background check on Takilant to ensure the company had the necessary permits and was the owner of the assets.

The acquisition enabled TeliaSonera to begin mobile operations in the country.

Last Thursday TeliaSonera’s CEO, Lars Nyberg defended the acquisition to newswire Reuters, denying that it amounted to bribery or had led to money laundering. He even went as far as saying he would resign if the company had done wrong.

There is growing concern surrounding the business environment in Uzbekistan after the country’s largest operator, MTS, had its mobile licences revoked, and assets seized earlier this month amid allegations of fraud and money laundering.

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