TeliaSonera ordered to provide financial cover for Uzbekistan investigation

Dutch authorities are calling for TeliaSonera to set aside between €10 million ($13.8 million) and €20 million as collateral to cover any financial claims relating to an investigation of the operator's business in Uzbekistan.

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Peter Borsos, head of group communications at TeliaSonera

The Sweden-based operator revealed on Monday that the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office requested the covering payment as part of an investigation of TeliaSonera UTA Holding, a holding company based in the Netherlands that handles TeliaSonera's UCell business in Uzbekistan.

The request was made last week, when prosecutors searched the offices of TeliaSonera UTA Holding, and TeliaSonera Uzbek Holding-- which is also based in the Netherlands--and seized documents relating to its Uzbek operation.

U.S. authorities are also probing TeliaSonera's Uzbekistan business, the operator confirmed on Monday. The U.S. Department of Justice is requesting access to documents as part of an ongoing investigation, and the operator has received a similar request from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Peter Borsos, head of group communications at TeliaSonera, said the company is cooperating "fully with all the authorities," and that its business in Uzbekistan is the "common denominator for our contacts with the authorities".

TeliaSonera is also liaising with Swedish prosecutors over allegations it effectively paid a bribe to Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov. The Swedish investigation centres on whether the company knew a payment to Gibraltar-based Takilant for a 3G licence was a sweetener, because Takilant is run by a close friend of Karimov's daughter.

The operator presented the results of an investigation of its Uzbek licence acquisition by law firm Mannheimer Swartling to Swedish prosecutors last year, and subsequently handed over the findings of a separate investigation by Norton Rose Fulbright covering its business practices in the broader Eurasia region.

Borsos said the company hopes to "gain full clarity on these issues," through its cooperation with Dutch, U.S. and Swedish authorities.

Amsterdam-based VimpelCom is also being investigated by Dutch prosecutors and the SEC over its Uzbekistan business. The operator last week confirmed prosecutors had seized documents during a search of its offices, and revealed it informed the SEC of concerns about the Uzbek operation in December.

For more:
- see TeliaSonera's announcement

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