TeliaSonera CEO ready to quit if Uzbek deal proves shady
STOCKHOLM, Sept 20
STOCKHOLM, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The chief executive of TeliaSonera AB denied that the Swedish telecom group's purchase of a 3G licence in Uzbekistan amounted to bribery or had led to money laundering, and said he would resign if the company had done wrong.
Lars Nyberg defended TeliaSonera, in which the state has a 37 percent stake, after a programme on Swedish television questioned the way the company carried out the purchase via a Gibraltar-based offshore firm.
"I am totally convinced we have not paid bribes or made ourselves guilty of money laundering," Nyberg said on public radio. "We will appoint some people from the outside to look at these two questions, if we have paid bribes or made ourselves guilty of money laundering," he said.
TeliaSonera has defended the deal, under which it signed a deal with a Gibraltar-based company called Takilant Ltd for 3G licenses and telephone numbers in Uzbekistan in exchange for $30 million and a stake in local mobile phone operator UCell, which it bought earlier in 2007.
TeliaSonera has said lawyers found nothing suspect in a background check on Takilant.
The group has already been criticised in Sweden for letting authorities in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Uzbekistan access its network to keep tabs on anti-government activists. It has said it was following local laws. (Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by David Holmes)