Telenor group chairman resigns over Uzbekistan investigation

Telenor’s group chairman Svein Aaser has resigned following a dispute with the Norwegian authorities over a long-standing investigation into the company’s dealings in Uzbekistan.

The dispute centres on an investigation into whether VimpelCom – which Telenor owns a 33% stake in - paid bribes in Uzbekistan. The Norwegian government owns a 54 % stake in Telenor.

In a statement, Aaser made clear that he did not agree with how the case had been handled:  “VimpelCom has been under investigation for several years, and this has been challenging for Telenor. I would like to emphasise that it is VimpelCom that is under investigation and that Telenor has fully cooperated with investigating authorities as a witness. The company continues to await the outcome of the investigation,” said Aaser.

“The ministry and I have had different views on the handling of the VimpelCom issue. I have informed the minister of trade and industry, Monica Mæland, about my decision. Beyond today’s statement, I have no further comments.”

According to Reuters, Maeland said she had lost confidence in the way Aaser has handled the police investigation into Vimpelcom's activities in Uzbekistan after receiving unspecified new information about the case.

She was also reported to have commented that: "I no longer have trust in the chairman of Telenor”.

In October, Telenor announced plans to sell its 33% stake in VimpelCom to focus on its core operations, a decision made by its new CEO Sigve Brekke who took over in August.