Russia-based Mobile TeleSystems PJSC (MTS), the largest mobile telecommunications company in that country and an issuer of publicly traded securities in the United States, has settled with the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) paying $850 million to resolve charges of paying bribes in Uzbekistan. A former Uzbek official who is the daughter of the former president of Uzbekistan and the former CEO of Uzdunrobita LLC, another MTS subsidiary, were said to have participated in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving more than $865 million in bribes from MTS, VimpelCom Limited (now VEON) and Telia Company AB (Telia) to the former Uzbek official in order to secure her assistance in entering and maintaining their business operations in Uzbekistan’s telecommunications market.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Raymond Villanueva of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. and Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
Gulnara Karimova, 46, a citizen of Uzbekistan, was charged in an indictment filed in the Southern District of New York on March 7 with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Karimova is a former Uzbek official who allegedly had influence over the Uzbek governmental body that regulated the telecom industry. Bekhzod Akhmedov, 44, a citizen of Uzbekistan and the former Uzbek executive, was charged in the same indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), two counts of violating the FCPA, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Karimova’s and Akhmedov’s case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York.