US and Dutch authorities have proposed that Telia be fined $1.4 billion over its transgressions in Uzbekistan.
The Swedish firm entered Uzbekistan in 2007, and its activities in the market have been the subject of an investigation for over two years. The fine is one of the largest ever issued by the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Telia chairman Marie Ehrling stated: “I have said on many occasions in the past that Telia Company’s entry into Uzbekistan was done in an unethical and wrongful way and we are prepared to take full responsibility.”
While she noted that the company would comply with the order, she added: “With that said, our initial reaction to the proposal is that the amount is very high. We will now have to analyse the information and decide on how to proceed with the ongoing discussions with the authorities.”
An investigation by Swedish prosecutors has concluded that Telia did not establish how its Uzbek partner obtained the rights that were later acquired by Telia, largely due to an inadequate vetting process. While there is no proof that Telia had in fact paid bribes, there is also no evidence to disprove these claims.
The scandal has resulted in the departure of several top executives at Telia – then branded as TeliaSonera – including former CEO Lars Nyberg, who resigned in early 2013. The operator is currently looking to divest its Eurasian holdings – including in Uzbekistan – in an apparent attempt to distance itself from this region.