Uzbekistan: First Family Tied to Telecom Deal
When majority state-owned Swedish communications giant TeliaSonera expanded its business to Uzbekistan in 2007, it bought the $320 million in licenses it would need to operate there from a Gibraltar-based company named Takilant, Ltd. Swedish TV, with help from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), has since learned that Takilant, Ltd is in fact a sole proprietorship whose owner is publicly connected to Gulnara Karimova, daughter to long-time Uzbeki dictator.
The $320 million in payment is now nowhere to be found, and as of July, Takilant Ltd, is under investigation by Swiss authorities for money laundering.
By law, telecom licenses in Uzbekistan are controlled by state authorities and can not be traded, according to Swedish TV's report. Yet Teliasonera paid hundreds of millions to Takilant – located in a tax haven well outside of Uzbekistan – in exchange for the Uzbeki licenses Talikant supposedly owned.
In a response issued on Wednesday, TeliaSonera denied that its business with Talikant was a way to hide payments to the Karimov regime. "TeliaSonera has no insights into how Takilant has used the proceeds, or whether there are any connections to other persons in Uzbekistan," the company said in a press release.
Previous investigations by Swedish TV have exposed TeliaSonera for collaborating with the governments of authoritarian regimes where it operates. A May report found that TeliaSonera allowed such officials to monitor customers' communications via the company's operation centers.
OCCRP, through its Investigative Dashboard project, provided research in Gibralter and other countries in support of the Swedish broadcaster.