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DOJ asks Sweden to freeze $30 million in TeliaSonera, Uzbek graft probe

The United States asked Swedish authorities to freeze more than $30 million in assets linked to an investigation into possible bribery of Uzbek officials and money laundering, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported Wednesday.

A letter from the U.S. Justice Department said investigations turned up evidence that the Russian-Norwegian company VimpelCom, Russian-owned MTS, and Swedish-Finnish company TeliaSonera "paid bribes to Uzbek officials to obtain mobile telecommunications business in Uzbekistan."

RFE/RL said a Swedish investigative journalist provided a copy of the DOJ's letter.

The letter said investigations revealed that "funds involved in the scheme were laundered through shell companies around the world."

"As part of an ongoing bribery investigation involving TeliaSonera, Swedish authorities have frozen more than $30 million," RFE/RL said.

Journalists found documents last year appearing to show $300 million in bribes to Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in exchange for access to the country's telecoms market.​

Karimova, 42, has been under house arrest for corruption since September last year. In 2013, she moved from a $20 million mansion in Switzerland to a home in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

As many as 60 alleged associates of Karimova have recently been convicted in Uzbekistan of financial fraud and sentenced to long prison terms.

Those involved reportedly include managers, bookkeepers, and other employees of three industrial facilities with ties to Karimova, an Uzbek official told RFE/RL.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.