February 1, 2013 - Press release

Reviewer criticises TeliaSonera

Serious criticism on several points, but Biörn Riese cannot confirm that bribery or money laundering has occurred. The formal review does confirm, however, that Goulnara Karimova’s name was known within the partially-owned company Fintur and that in the spring of 2007 she was also a candidate for local partner.

These are some of the conclusions from the report on TeliaSonera that attorney Biörn Riese from Mannheimer Swartling presented to the board on Thursday evening.

It was after heavy media criticism, that in October 2012 TeliaSonera’s board assigned Mannheimer Swartling and attorney Biörn Riese to conduct a legal review regarding the questioned business affairs in Uzbekistan.

Biörn Riese notes that the transactions have been surrounded by so many remarkable circumstances that at least someone should have reacted to the lack of clarity regarding the local partner.

“If one carries out business in a corrupt country, one should quite simply be more thorough than TeliaSonera has been,” says Biörn Riese.

Among other things, Riese notes that:

  • The ambition level when it came to obtaining knowledge about the local partner has been very low – from the board to the project management.
  • When the various agreements on acquisitions of frequencies and number series were entered into, it was unknown to TeliaSonera how the local partner, and later Takilant and its subsidiary Teleson Mobile, acquired them.
  • This level of ambition also means that TeliaSonera’s own guidelines were not followed completely.

“If one doesn’t know who a counterparty is, nor how a counterparty has obtained the assets being acquired, it would seem difficult to ensure that corruption has not occurred at some step along the way,” states Riese.

Riese has also taken a close look at possible ties between Goulnara Karimova, daughter to Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, and TeliaSonera.

“When the project initially was managed within Fintur, where TeliaSonera is a majority owner, the intention was to enter into an agreement with Goulnara Karimova's investment team as the local partner,” states Riese. “This information was communicated in an internal memo and has also appeared in email correspondence.”

In regard to investigating whether a corruption offence or a violation of the anti-money laundering act has occurred – Riese has not been able to establish that bribery or money laundering has occurred, based on the information available to the investigation.

“The deficiencies present with regard to the information about the identity of the local partner and the stakeholders behind Takilant, as well as concerning the more detailed circumstances regarding the disposition of frequencies and number series – which this investigation has criticised – indicate, however, that the suspicions of crime expressed in the media and by the Swedish Prosecution Authority cannot be dismissed by this investigation,” concludes Riese.

When it comes to the issues of who bears the main responsibility for these deficiencies, Riese points out several persons or functions:

  • The reasons for levelling criticism at project management are the deficiencies uncovered regarding information about the local partner’s identity and about Takilant with its ownership structure, as well as the deficiencies of information regarding the circumstances of its disposition of frequencies and number series from 2007 and forward.
  • The reason for levelling criticism at the CEO at the time of the first establishment phase in 2007 is the uncritical attitude shown to the information presented by project management, which in turn resulted in deficiencies in the report to the board. ´
  • The reason for levelling criticism at the current CEO is the uncritical attitude that has been maintained, despite the presence of continued unclear circumstances in connection with transactions in 2007, as well as subsequent events.´
  • The reason for levelling criticism at the TeliaSonera board in place at the respective times in question is the deficient handling, primarily regarding the local partner, during the establishment in Uzbekistan in the spring and summer of 2007 as well as in connection with the re-purchasing of shares from Takilant in January 2010.

On Friday afternoon Riese will also present the report to several of TeliaSonera’s larger shareholders at the Ministry of Finance.

The report is about 150 pages long, including a 10-page English summary. To obtain a copy online in PDF format or for more information, please email helena.sjoholm@msa.se or call +46 709 777 934.