Uzbek president's daughter named in Swedish telecom bribery case

STOCKHOLM Mon Mar 24, 2014 1:08pm EDT

Gulnara Karimova (C), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, takes a video with an Ipad as her father dances during an Independence Day celebration in Tashkent August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Gulnara Karimova (C), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, takes a video with an Ipad as her father dances during an Independence Day celebration in Tashkent August 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors are investigating the daughter of Uzbekistan's president on suspicion of taking bribes to let Nordic telecoms company TeliaSonera enter the country's market, they said on Monday.

Gulnara Karimova, daughter of President Islam Karimov, had already been named by the Swiss public prosecutor as a suspect in the case which is also being investigated by Dutch and U.S. authorities.

Prosecutors are looking into allegations that when TeliaSonera paid 2.3 billion Swedish crowns ($358 million) for a 3G license in Uzbekistan in 2007 to Gibraltar-registered firm Takilant, it knew the company was a front for Karimova.

The allegations, first made in a Swedish television program in 2012, have already forced most of the TeliaSonera board, its chief executive and several senior employees from their jobs.

In a request to a Stockholm court asking for more time to bring charges, Swedish prosecutors said they suspected that representatives for TeliaSonera had bribed members of Uzbekistan's "political elite".

"In the investigation there is now a concrete basis, including information on control over assets, which gives reason to suspect that Gulnara Karimova, who also served as a public official during the time period relevant for the case, was the one who orchestrated, controlled, and also was the one who primarily benefited from the procedure," the prosecutors said.

Reuters was unable to contact Karimova for comment. She has in the past denied allegations of business impropriety.

TeliaSonera, which has appointed its own lawyers to investigate its past business deals in Uzbekistan and other countries in the region, said it was collaborating with the prosecutors.

Uzbekistan's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva from December 2008 until last year, 41-year-old Karimova is also a jewelry designer and pop singer whose stage name is "Googosha".

Russian telecoms companies have also run into problems in Uzbekistan. Russia's top mobile operator, MTS, had its assets in the country confiscated in 2012 in what it called a "classic shakedown" of foreign investors.

Rival mobile operator Vimpelcom is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Dutch authorities over its business there, it said this month.

(Reporting by Sven Nordenstam and Olof Swahnberg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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