UPDATE 1-TeliaSonera keeps C. Asia strategy despite Uzbek probe

Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:04pm EDT

* Swedish prosecutors probing Uzbek 3G license deal

* TeliaSonera to sharpen guidelines for large investments

* Says has zero tolerance for corruption

STOCKHOLM, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Swedish telecoms operator TeliaSonera said on Tuesday it would stick to its plan to expand in central Asia despite a legal probe into its purchase of a 3G licence in Uzbekistan.

TeliaSonera, 37 percent state-owned, has denied allegations that its payment of around 2.3 billion Swedish crowns ($346.34 million) for the licence in 2007 amounted to bribery and had led to money laundering.

Swedish prosecutors last month opened a preliminary probe into the deal after in a Swedish television programme said the seller, Gibraltar Takilant Ltd, had close ties with the daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov.

A Swedish court on Monday froze around $30 million of funds in a bank account controlled by Takilant.

"During a meeting today, TeliaSonera's board reconfirmed its commitment to the company's current strategy," TeliaSonera said in a statement.

"The board takes full responsibility for existing and future investments. We will continue to be a leading player in the Nordic and Baltic markets and will strengthen our operations in Central Asia."

The company said it would tighten its risk management procedures for large investments to ensure compliance with its code of ethics and said it had "zero tolerance" for corruption and human rights abuses.

Criticism of TeliaSonera's activities in central Asia has embarrassed Sweden, a country which prides itself on squeaky-clean ethical standards and support for human rights.

The government has said TeliaSonera failed to follow its own rules when buying the license and that it could seek a seat on the company's board to have greater influence over policy. ($1 = 6.6408 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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