Anti-corruption unit grills Telenor on Uzbek deal
Telenor, Norway’s majority state-owned phone company, has been pulled into the corruption case surrounding Russian phone company Vimpelcom in Uzbekistan, with Norwegian investigators visiting its offices this week.
Norway’s white-collar crime unit Økokrim this week served Telenor with a warrant demanding information surrounding its investment in Vimpelcom, at the same time as the Amsterdam offices of Vimpelcom itself were raided by Dutch police.
“I can confirm that Økokrim is assisting The Netherlands and Switzerland in an investigation which is ongoing in these jurisdictions,” Økokrim prosecutor Marianne Djupesland told The Local. “Telenor is not a suspect in these investigations.”
She said that the agency had served Telenor with a “production order” asking for relevant information, probably pertaining to the company’s controversial investment in Uzbekistan.
Telenor spokesman Glen Mandelid stressed that Telenor was only a minority shareholder in Vimpelcom, but said that he nonetheless believed that “all transactions were checked out against American anti-corruption guidelines.”
Vimpelcom is 56.2% owned by Fridman’s Altimo investment vehicle, and 33% owned by Telenor, with the rest controlled by minority shareholders.
The company has close links to Telenor. Vimpelcom’s chief executive Jo Lunder was previously chief operating officer of Telenor Mobile and another former Telenor executive, Jan Edvard Thygesen, serves as VimpelCom’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer.
Vimpelcom bought its Uzbekistan license from a Gibraltar-registered firm called Takilant, which has been linked to Gulnara Karimova, the Uzbek president’s controversial daughter, who was described as a “robber baron” and “the single most hated person” in Uzbekistan in US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.
Karimova’s businesses have recently come under attack in Uzbekistan, while in Europe she has been the subject of multiple corruption probes.
Source: The Local