Telecoms giant VimpelCom faces US, Dutch investigations
MOSCOW, March 12 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – Telecommunications giant VimpelCom is presently facing investigations by the US and Dutch authorities, apparently in connection with its operations in Uzbekistan, the company announced Wednesday.
On Tuesday, VimpelCom received a letter from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting certain documents in light of a pending investigation.
The same day, the Dutch authorities paid a visit to VimpelCom’s Amsterdam headquarters. Among those present were representatives of the Dutch public prosecutor’s office, who informed the company of a pending criminal investigation in the Netherlands and seized certain documents as a result.
“The investigations appear to be concerned with the Company’s operations in Uzebkistan,” according to the statement.
The press release refrained from explicitly mentioning which of its Uzbek operations would fall under the international investigators’ scrutiny, and a spokesperson for the company declined to provide further comment in light of the pending investigation.
In an SEC filing concerning the 2012 fiscal year, VimpelCom revealed the potential that it may face civil and criminal investigations and other consequences stemming from the activities of Takilant Ltd., a Gibraltar-based firm that has seen its fair share of trouble with international law enforcement authorities in recent years.
The firm has provoked the ire of Swedish and Swiss authorities based on money-laundering allegations. The BBC reported in November 2012 that Swedish journalists traveled to Gibraltar, where Takilant is registered, but found no office or staff linked to the company. As a result of their report, an investigation was launched in Sweden, resulting in a freezing order on a Swedish bank account belonging to the company that contained approximately $30 million. Switzerland’s Money Laundering Reporting Office launched its own investigation around the same time, according to the BBC.
The VimpelCom SEC filing states that between 2007 and 2009, Takilant held a minority interest in VimpelCom’s business in Uzbekistan, and that it had worked with Takilant in the past in order to acquire frequency spectrum in the country.
“Although we are not aware of any current investigations of our company in connection with our relationship with Takilant, there can be no assurance that we will not become subject to investigations, face liability or suffer reputational harm due to our relationship with Takilant,” According to the filing, which was submitted on March 22, 2013.
VimpelCom faced further difficulties with its Uzbek operations when its local subsidiary Unitel was placed on the country’s monopoly registry.
VimpelCom is one of the largest telecommunications services in the world, providing services in Russia, Central Asia, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The company provides its Russian services under the Beeline brand.