(Adds Swedish market minister comment)
STOCKHOLM Jan 8 TeliaSonera said
on Tuesday that allegations of bribery related to its purchase
of a 3G license in Uzbekistan in 2007 were unfounded after a
court released company emails used as evidence by the
In September, Swedish prosecutors launched an investigation
into whether Telia knew that the company it bought its license
from was just a front. Telia is undertaking its own probe.
"We have zero tolerance against corruption and we are
confident that the investigations will show what has really
occurred," Telia said in a statement.
Telia, partly owned by the Swedish state, has said it only
negotiated with the owner of the license, a Gibraltar-registered
firm called Takilant, and that its due diligence could not dig
up who stood behind that company.
However, one email released by the court from an executive
of the Telia subsidiary that negotiated the purchase of the
license, names the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov as
a partner in the deal.
"It is hard to reconcile the submitted email traffic with
Telia's public statements that it lacked knowledge of who was
behind its Uzbek partners and therefore to whom the money had
gone," prosecutor Gunnar Stetler said in a document submitted to
The money for the deal ended up in overseas bank accounts,
not with Uzbek state, Stetler said in the statement.
In October, a Swedish court agreed to freeze assets of
Takilant saying there were grounds to suspect two of its
representatives - including its sole director - were guilty of
The documents were submitted by Stetler who wants to widen
the asset freeze.
On Tuesday, Telia said two of its employees have been served
with indictments in conjunction with the preliminary
investigation and had been interviewed by police, but it denied
Swedish media named one of the Telia employees as Tero
Kivisaari, Telia's second in command and head of its Eurasia and
On Tuesday, Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman said the
Telia employees, who had been identified as suspects by the
prosecutor, should take time out from work.
Telia Chairman Anders Narvinger rejected the call saying in
a statement the board would only consider such action if Telia's
own investigation into the deal, due to be competed later this
month, led to "a strengthening of the degree of suspicion
against senior exectives".
Telia has been under pressure for months over the
allegations, but there has been limited impact on its shares,
which outperformed the DJ Stoxx 600 European telecoms index
While shareholders, including the Swedish government which
has a 37 percent stake, have expressed concern, they have been
waiting for the conclusions of Telia's own and the prosecutor's
investigations before taking any actions.
Analysts expect the worst case scenario to be Telia's
withdrawal from Uzbekistan - which makes up only a fraction of
the company's revenues - and the resignation of Chief Executive
Lars Nyberg, who has staked his job on the company being
Nyberg retires from Telia at the end of this year anyway, so
the company has been planning for his departure.
Uzbekistan ranked 170th out of 174 countries in Transparency
International's 2012 corruption perceptions index. President
Karimov has ruled his gas-rich republic since independence from
the former Soviet Union two decades ago.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson)