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TeliaSonera CEO Quits Over Shadowy Uzbek 3G Deal

posted 3 Feb 2013, 08:21 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Feb 2013, 08:22 ]

The chief executive of TeliaSonera resigns after an investigation into the company's purchase of an Uzbekistan 3G license harshly criticises the deal.

STOCKHOLMSWEDEN  (TV4) -  The chief executive of Nordic and emerging markets telecoms group TeliaSonera resigned on Friday (February 1) after an in-house investigation into its purchase of an Uzbekistan 3G licence criticized the deal.

The report, which TeliaSonera had commissioned from a law firm, found no evidence of bribery or money laundering but said a lack of diligence by the company made it difficult to rule out somewhere along the line.

"The information that was given to the Telia board was very lightweight and only mentioned a group of business men who owned a bank and it didn't lead to any questions from the board or from anybody else within the organisation and such information is far too shallow to base a business decision on," lawyer Biorn Riese said.

He compiled a 150-page report about a scandal that has dogged TeliaSonera since last year.

The upshot, he said, was that allegations of graft from Swedish prosecutors could not be dismissed.

"Either someone has knowingly looked the other way, or else someone is naive or someone's focus was somewhere else. It ended up being wrong," he said.

Chief Executive Lars Nyberg said he was pleased that the report had offered no evidence to justify bribery and money laundering allegations levelled by Swedish prosecutors.

But he acknowledged criticism that TeliaSonera had not dug deep enough to know who its Uzbek partner was and how he had come by the assets that TeliaSonera acquired.

Nyberg's contract as chief executive had been due to end in December this year.

Swedish prosecutors launched an investigation in September into allegations that TeliaSonera knew that the company it paid 2.3 billion crowns (361 million United States dollars) to for the licence was a front for top-level Uzbeks and that the deal involved money laundering and bribery.

That came after a Swedish investigative television programme raised questions about how the deal was structured, for instance that it took place via a formerly unknown company based in Gibraltar. A Swedish court has already frozen assets belonging to theGibraltar company, which is called Takilant.