April 4, 2013 / 12:30 PM / 5 years ago

Prosecutors identify third suspect in Telia Uzbek probe

STOCKHOLM, April 4 (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors have identified a third suspect in their investigation into possible corruption related to telecoms firm TeliaSonera’s purchase of an Uzbekistan 3G license, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

Telia’s acting CEO, Per-Arne Blomquist, told Swedish news agency TT that prosecutors are now investigating three people in the case, which is a preliminary investigation into possible bribery and money laundering in connection with the 2007 deal.

Telia has said the allegations are unfounded.

A Telia spokesman confirmed Blomquist’s remarks and said the third suspect no longer worked at the company.

“I can confirm it is a former employee,” Salomon Bekele told Reuters. The other two continue to work at TeliaSonera.

Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler declined to comment.

The prosecutors are looking into allegations Telia paid 2.3 billion Swedish crowns for its 3G licence to Takilant Ltd, a Gibraltar-listed company, when it knew it was a front for Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov.

A Swedish court has agreed to freeze assets belonging to Takilant.

A report by a law firm Telia hired to investigate did not uncover any evidence of bribery or money laundering, but said a lack of due diligence made it difficult to rule out corruption somewhere along the line, prompting the company’s previous chief executive to resign.

A push into emerging markets has been the main profit driver for TeliaSonera, whose reputation is sensitive because the Swedish state is 37 percent shareholder and Finland owns almost 12 percent. ($1 = 6.5162 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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