STOCKHOLM, March 17 U.S. authorities are
investigating TeliaSonera's purchase of a 3G licence
in Uzbekistan in 2007, the Swedish telecoms operator said, a
deal that has forced the firm to replace top management and most
of its board.
Swedish prosecutors have already launched a preliminary
inquiry into corruption allegations related to the 2.3 billion
Swedish crowns ($360.5 million) deal, while Dutch authorities
raided Telia's offices this month.
In a further widening of the investigation, the company said
on Monday that it had received requests from the U.S. Department
of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for
it to hand over documents related to Uzbekistan.
Telia said it was cooperating with all authorities in the
A spokesman for the company, 37 percent owned by the Swedish
state, said the questions from the U.S. authorities were very
broad and that it had not been informed what had triggered the
new investigation. "This is the very early stages of their
investigation," said Peter Borsos, head of group communications.
The U.S. Department of Justice could not immediately be
reached for comment, while the SEC declined to comment.
Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler - in charge of Sweden's
investigation into the Uzbek licence deal - said he had asked
U.S. authorities, among others, for help but declined to give
There has been intensifying international scrutiny of the
Uzbek telecoms market, with Russian operator Vimpelcom -
Uzbekistan's biggest mobile operator by subscribers - saying
last week it was being investigated by U.S. and Dutch
President Islam Karimov has ruled the gas-rich nation,
central Asia's most populous country, with an iron hand since it
gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Last year, Telia's then-chief executive resigned after an
in-house investigation criticised the company for lack of due
diligence when buying the 3G licence in the country, ranked by
Transparency International as one of the world's most corrupt.
New CEO Johan Dennelind fired four top executives after a
law firm appointed by Telia to look into its dealings in
Eurasia, which makes up around 20 percent of its sales, found
some transactions had not been conducted in line with sound
Telia said earlier this month that the Dutch holding
companies which control its operations in Uzbekistan had been
raided by authorities in a preliminary investigation into
bribery and money laundering.
It said on Monday that the Dutch authorities had requested
collateral against any future financial claims against Telia UTA
Holding BV, one of the holding companies.
"According to the information we have currently, the request
for collateral is between 10 million euros ($13.93 million) and
20 million," Telia said.