(Prosecutors corrected to say Takilant holds a 6 percent in Telia’s Uzbek subsidiary, Ucell, not the parent company, Telia)
AMSTERDAM, July 6 (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday asked judges to seize more than 300 million euros in assets belonging to a Netherlands-based front company they say was used to bribe Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president.
Prosecutors asked the Amsterdam court to confiscate 300 million euros and impose a fine of nearly 5 million euros. They also called on the court to seize a 6 percent stake held by the front company, Takilant, in Ucell, the Uzbek subsidiary of Nordic telecoms operator Telia Company AB.
“The bribes were paid in exchange for entry into the Uzbek telecommunications market,” prosecutors said in a statement. “The beneficiary of the money was the daughter of the Uzbek president.” Takilant was owned by Karimova, they said.
They said bribes were paid by telecommunications companies VimpelCom, which settled corruption charges with Dutch and U.S. prosecutors in February, and Telia , which remains under investigation.
Dutch prosecutors targeted Takilant, not Karimova personally, because of jurisdiction limits, a spokeswoman said. VimpelCom and TeliaSonera have headquarters in the Netherlands and could therefore be prosecuted under anti-corruption laws.
Dutch prosecutors allege that Karimova received more than $385 million in bribes between 2007 and 2015 to secure mobile 3G licences for Unitel, a subsidiary of the Norwegian-Russian owned VimpelCom and Coscom LLC, the Uzbek subsidiary of Telia.
Swiss, Swedish and U.S. authorities had already named Karimova as a suspect in graft investigations as early as 2012. The Swiss and Swedish investigations are continuing.
Karimova and Takilant were not represented in court on Wednesday. She was not available for comment and is not known to have ever commented on the allegations.
The case in the Netherlands focuses on what the indictment says were payments to Karimova made through Takilant via accounts or entities in Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Sweden, the British Virgin Islands, Russia and Latvia between 2007 and 2015.
In February, Vimpelcom agreed to pay $795 million to settle U.S. and Dutch investigations into the bribery scheme in Uzbekistan, among the largest foreign bribery settlements ever.
The Vimpelcom arrangement was behind only Siemens AG’s $1.6 billion settlement in 2008 that resolved wide-ranging bribery investigations in the United States and Germany.
Under the deal with VimpelCom, whose biggest shareholders are Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne and Norway’s Telenor, the firm accepted a deferred prosecution agreement in which U.S. criminal charges will be dropped in three years.
In November, U.S. authorities said they were prepared to extend their investigation into Telia’s dealings in Uzbekistan to include other countries in the Eurasian region.
Karimova’s father, strongman President Islam Karimov, has sought to reduce dependence on former imperial master Russia and improve ties with the West but obstacles include the Central Asian state’s poor human rights record. (Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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