Prosecutors identify Telia staff as suspects in Uzbek probe

STOCKHOLM Wed Dec 12, 2012 6:09am EST

STOCKHOLM Dec 12 (Reuters) - Swedish telecoms operator TeliaSonera said on Wednesday prosecutors looking into allegations of corruption in a 2007 license deal in Uzbekistan suspect two of its employees of crimes.

In September, the anti-corruption unit of the Swedish Prosecuting Authority launched an investigation into TeliaSonera's purchase of a 3G licence in the central Asian state from a company registered in Gibraltar.

TeliaSonera, which has denied any wrongdoing, said prosecutors had now identified two of its employees as suspects.

It declined to name them and said they were still working for the company.

"We believe these accusations are groundless, so we have not seen any reason to make any changes in that respect," said Salomon Bekele, Telia's press head.

Telia CEO Lars Nyberg has staked his job on the company being exonerated from wrongdoing in the 2.3 billion crown deal ($352 million) with the Gibraltar-based company, Takilant Ltd.

A Swedish court in October froze Takilant's assets and said it had grounds to suspect two Uzbekis of money laundering.

A Swedish TV programme has said one of the Uzbekis has links with the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Swedish-appointed lawyers have entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of the two Uzbek representatives of Takilant.

Telia has launched its own investigation into the deal, which is being conducted by a Swedish law firm. (Reporting by Simon Johnson and Veronica Ek; Editing by Erica Billingham)