The Director General of the GSMA Anne Bouverot has called on the President of Uzbekistan to intervene personally in the ongoing conflict between the country’s government and the Uzbek branch of MTS.
Uzbekistan has illegally seized $1b in assets from MTS and is holding four of its employees under arrest in violation of the country's own due process laws and globally recognised human rights.
Expressing concerns that the incident could damage Uzbekistan’s reputation as an attractive investment prospect, the letter requests that the President “review the situation and consider whether the treatment of MTS-Uzbekistan has been reasonable and in accordance with basic rule of law standards.”
The full statement reads: “The dispute between your government and MTS-Uzbekistan is attracting widespread international attention and is clearly one that could have long-term implications for investment in your country’s mobile market. First, the mobile communications industry is a lucrative source of potential foreign investment to Uzbekistan, and other providers may be hesitant to make investments after seeing what has happened to MTS-Uzbekistan. Second, when foreign investors consider markets for investment, the stability of the business environment, including the presence of a strong mobile communications infrastructure, is a fundamental criterion, as it supports the ease with which people can conduct daily business transactions. Recent actions have destabilized the mobile communications networks in Uzbekistan, and this may serve to be a deterrent for those companies seeking to do business there. Third, the detainment for extended periods of time, as well as allegations that detainees, all of whom are telecommunications professionals, are denied basic rights, makes it difficult for any business to consider investment given the responsibilities businesses have for the safety and well-being of their employees.”