Telia to Pay US$ 965 Million to Resolve Karimova Bribery Case

Published: 22 September 2017

Gulnara World Economic Forum

Nader Daoud CC BY-SA 2.0

By Tessine Murji

Nordic telecommunications firm Telia Company will pay the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Dutch and Swedish regulators US$ 965 million to resolve bribery allegations previously investigated by OCCRP in 2015.

Telia Company, formerly known as TeliaSonera, was caught funneling US$ 330 million in bribes through a slush fund spearheaded by the late Uzbek president's daughter, Gulnara Karimova. The money was intended to facilitate Telia's entrance into the Uzbek telecommunications market, OCCRP reported. Telia's Uzbek branch, Coscom formally admitted to the claims.

Because the bribes traveled through an account based in New York City, it is a direct violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), according to a statement released by the U.S. attorney’s office.

"If your securities trade on our exchanges and you use our banks to move ill-gotten money, then you have to abide by our country's laws. Telia and Coscom refused to do so, and they have been held accountable in Manhattan federal court today," said Joon Kim, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.

Former Telia CEO, Lars Nyberg and two other Telia employees will be charged by Swedish prosecutors for their involvement with the Uzbek bribes, Channel NewsAsia reported.

U.S. and Dutch authorities demanded monetary compensation for the Telia bribery scheme a year after Telia Company announced its gradual withdrawal from Central Asia in 2015.

Current Telia CEO Johan Dennelind released a statement saying Telia employees must make sure they understand "the importance of doing the right thing all the time," adding that "the resolution and related financial sanction that we announce today is a painful reminder of what happens if we don't."

According to the same OCCRP investigation, Russian-Norwegian telecommunications company VimpelCom profited from the same kind of corruption. VimpelCom admitted last February to bribing Karimova, and consequently agreed to pay US$ 795 million to U.S. and Dutch authorities.