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TeliaSonera boss quits over Uzbekistan allegations

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[February 01, 2013]  STOCKHOLM (AP) -- The chief executive of TeliaSonera resigned Friday after an independent review on alleged bribery by the telecoms company found it had failed to conduct a proper background check on a partner Uzbek firm believed to be connected with the family of the country's autocratic ruler.

The review, conducted by a law firm, exonerated TeliaSonera of bribery and money laundering but it said TeliaSonera managers could have carried out better due diligence on Takilant, the Uzbek partner firm.

In 2007, TeliaSonera and Takilant signed a 2.3 billion kronor ($350 million) deal that included the purchase of a 3G operating license in the Uzbekistan mobile phone market.

Last year, reports surfaced in Swedish media that Takilant had ties to Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and that TeliaSonera might have been involved in bribery and money laundering. Doubts also arose as to how Takilant, which is based in Gibraltar, obtained the original 3G license from Uzbek authorities.

"Even if this transaction was legal, we should not have gone ahead without learning more about the identity of the counterparty," TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg said in a statement. "This is something I regret."

Nyberg's resignation was effectively immediately. The company's board appointed Per-Arne Blomquist as acting president and CEO.

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Nyberg, who took over the CEO's post in 2007, said there would be significant changes to TeliaSonera's board in light of the review.

Swedish prosecutors have been investigating the bribery and money laundering allegations, and in January submitted documents to a Swedish court suggesting TeliaSonera might have paid a bribe to Karimova via Takilant.

Gulnara Karimova has been actively involved in the lucrative mobile phone sector. In the late 1990s she took control of Uzdunrobita, a subsidiary of a Russian-Uzbek telecommunications joint venture, though she later sold the company in 2004.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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