Newspaper says Vimpelcom suspected of paying $55mn bribe to acquire Uzbek licences

By bne IntelliNews November 18, 2014

bne -

 

Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom is suspected of paying bribes to Gulnara Karimova, the disgraced eldest daughter of President Islam Karimov, to enter the Uzbek market, according to Norwegian daily  Klassekampen.

Sweden’s General Prosecutor Berndt Berger presented documents to a court in Stockholm on November 14 that allegedly show that Vimpelcom paid $55mn in bribes - $25mn in 2007 and $30mn in 2011 - to a Gibiltrar-based company named Takilant which is registered under the name of Gayane Avakyan, Gulnara's friend and business partner.  Another $37.5mn was transferred in the form of profits from a partnerhip agreement signed in 2007.  Suspicion arose that the payments constituted bribes to get the Uzbek government to issue telecommunications licenses, Klassekampen quoted Berger as writing. 

Vimpelcom holds operating licences in Uzbekistan through local subsidiary Beeline. Its major shareholders are Altimo, the telecom arm of Alfa Group, a Russian investment company controlled by oligarch Mikhail Fridman, which owns 47.9% of total voting rights, and Telenor, a telecom group controlled by the Norwegian government, which owns another 43% of voting rights.

“These recent reports actually do not provide any new information to what the company has already disclosed in its financial statements and to regulators,” a spokesperson for Vimpelcom told EurasiaNet.org on November 17. “The company continues to cooperate with the pending investigations, and it continues to focus its energies on improving its compliance program.”

The group had already acknowledged in a 2013 SEC filing that Takilant had held a minority stake in its Uzbek subsidiary Beeline in 2007-2009 and that it had worked with Takilant to acquire frequencies in Uzbekistan, warning that it could give no assurance that it would "not become subject to investigations, face liability or suffer presentational harm" as a consequence of its dealings with Takilant.

The group's Uzbek operations are currently under investigation by the SEC in the US and a Dutch court - the group is headquartered in Amsterdam. The Swedish prosecutor is interested in the case because  TeliaSonera, controlled by Sweden's government, is under investigation in Stockholm for allegedly paying up to $300mn in 2007 to acquire licenses in Uzbekistan. Gibraltar-based Talikent served as an intermediary also in that occasion.

Gulnara Karimova, once rumoured to to succeed her father as Uzbekistan's president, has now fallen victim to an escalating internal struggle for power and has been under house arrest in Tashkent since February.

Related Articles

VimpelCom makes $1bn loss as Uzbek corruption case escalates

Jacopo Dettoni in Almaty -   Russian telecom VimpelCom reported a $1bn net loss in the third quarter of 2015 after it made a $900mn provision for alleged wrongdoings in Uzbekistan, the company ... more

Uzbekistan to cut car output amid falling exports, remittances

Olim Abdullayev in Tashkent - Collapsing car sales in major export markets have, to the delight of many Uzbeks, meant a flood of cars unsold abroad coming on to the local market. To prop up car ... more

COMMMENT: Great challenges for Eurasia call for decisive solutions

Juha Kähkönen of the IMF - The Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region continues to navigate a wave of external shocks – the slump in global prices of oil and other key commodities, the slowdown ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or purchase 12 months full website access including the bne Magazine for just $119/year.

Already a subscriber or registered - click here to recover access.

If you a IntelliNews Pro user - click here to login.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address.
A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

Already a subscriber or registered - click here to recover access.

If you a IntelliNews Pro user - click here to login.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

Already a subscriber or registered - click here to recover access.

If you a IntelliNews Pro user - click here to login.

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

Already a subscriber or registered - click here to recover access.

If you a IntelliNews Pro user - click here to login.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address.
A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.

Dismiss