Comment from TeliaSonera related to information in the media
Since several months there are two investigations ongoing regarding TeliaSonera's investment in telecommunication operator business in Uzbekistan, one initiated by the Prosecutor's Office, and one external review, initiated by TeliaSonera.
TeliaSonera cooperates fully with these investigations and have provided detailed information on how the negotiations have been carried out, who have been involved and what agreements have been reached.
As previously communicated two of TeliaSonera's employees have been heard, as representatives of the company, and served with indictments in conjunction with the preliminary investigation. Both the individuals and the company deny the allegations.
Late last week documentation was made public which Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler had submitted to the Court of Appeals in support of his appeal of the District court’s decision to dismiss his request for further embargo of funds concerning Takilant, TeliaSonera's local partner in Uzbekistan. The information presented, which was later published in the media, gives us cause to comment.
The documentation includes copies of email correspondence during the spring of 2007 from Serkan Elden, the former CEO of Fintur Holdings (a majority-owned subsidiary of TeliaSonera within Business area Eurasia), to employees in Fintur Holdings and TeliaSonera, in which Gulnara Karimova is mentioned as a local partner in Uzbekistan.
The negotiations regarding the investment in Uzbekistan were led by Serkan Elden, who during a brief period from January 1, 2007 to June 15 of the same year was CEO of Fintur Holdings. In 2007, a number of management changes were made in TeliaSonera and business area Eurasia. Tero Kivisaari was appointed Head of the business area on May 1, 2007. In June 2007 Serkan Elden was dismissed due to lack of trust and Tero Kivisaari took over responsibility for the negotiations with the local partner. In the negotiations, the local partner was represented by Bekhzod Akhmedov, who at the time was also the managing director of the largest operator in the country, owned by Russian MTS.
The agreement with the local partner Takilant was signed on December 24, 2007, with its only registered director Gayane Avakyan. If there were any other beneficiaries behind the local partner has been the subject of much speculation and rumors. The information we received during the negotiations was that a group of local businessmen were behind the local partner. Various rumors around who could be part of this group circulated, including Gulnara Karimova. In the due diligence process we investigated the ownership structure by asking questions and obtaining information regarding Takilant but we could not identify any other beneficiaries than Gayane Avakyan.
We are still convinced that the ongoing investigations will clarify that we have not bribed anyone or participated in money laundering. We have zero tolerance against corruption and we are confident that the investigations will show what has really occurred. In connection with Mannheimer Swartling’s publication of its review, TeliaSonera's Board will comment on it and describe the work going forward.
Around 2005, TeliaSonera decided to explore the possibility of expanding its operations in Eurasia, beyond the original four countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Moldova. In early 2007, the possibility emerged to acquire the mobile operations of MCT Corporation in Uzbekistan (Coscom) and Tajikistan (Somoncom and Indigo Tajikistan), as well as a minority stake in a mobile operator in Afghanistan (Roshan).
In July 2007 the Board of Directors of TeliaSonera decided to acquire MCT Corp., with mobile operator businesses in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and a minority stake in an operator in Afghanistan. A prerequisite for the acquisition was a local partner, which has been part of the strategy when entering new markets.
There are almost 30 million inhabitants in Uzbekistan and TeliaSonera currently provides telecommunication services to more than nine million of them, who depend on our services for their daily communication.