Karimova loses Uzbek diplomatic immunity

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's president and whose name has surfaced in a corruption case involving Swedish firm TeliaSonera, is no longer her country's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, the Swiss government said Saturday.

Karimova loses Uzbek diplomatic immunity

The Uzbek foreign ministry informed Switzerland on July 9th that the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan’s long-serving President Islam Karimov was no longer her country’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, the Swiss foreign ministry said in an email to AFP.

The ministry refused to provide further comments, but Swiss public broadcaster RTS reported that as a result, Karimova has been stripped of all diplomatic immunity.

Karimov, 75, has ruled Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his 41-year-old Harvard-educated daughter is closely watched as a possible successor to him, although she has repeatedly denied such ambitions.

But since last year, her name has been mentioned in a massive money laundering probe against Swedish-Finnish telecoms giant TeliaSonera.

The telecom company has been accused of bribing a woman with very close ties to Karimova, in a bid to secure a 3G mobile telephone licence and frequencies in Uzbekistan.

RTS said it had received information indicating that a probe into the matter by the Swiss public prosecutor’s office implicates Karimova directly, although she had yet to be notified officially of any charges.

Four people close to her are meanwhile already officially under investigation and Bern has to date frozen some 800 million Swiss francs ($845 million) in assets in connection with the case, RTS reported, without revealing its sources.

The broadcaster also reported that French authorities had carried out searches of three properties owned by Karimova in that country in June, following a request from Swiss prosecutors.

France has reportedly opened its own probe into the matter.

AFP/The Local

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Ex-Telenor CEO risks US corruption charges

Former Telenor chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas risks criminal charges in the US and elsewhere if Russian mobile firm Vimpelcom is found guilty of corruption, Norways NRK has reported.

Ex-Telenor CEO risks US corruption charges
Jon Fredrik Baksaas presents his last set of Telenor results in July. Photo: Torstein Boe / NTB scanpix
According to Professor Beate Sjåfjell, a law professor at the University of Oslo, Baksaas’s three years on board of Vimpelcom between December 2011 and December 2014 mean he could be held partly responsible if Vimpelcom is proven to have given bribes in Uzbekistan. 
“The board of a company has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that it is operated lawfully,” Sjåfjell told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. “As a result, Baksaas and the other directors of Vimpelcom could risk a criminal prosecution.” 
Vimpelcom, in which Telenor owns a 33 percent stake, is being investigated by American and Dutch authorities for paying bribes to set up its Beeline phone company in Uzbekistan. 
Sjåfjell argued that even without evidence showing Baksaas was  involved in or even aware of illegal payments, the well-publicized corruption issues in Uzbekistan could leave him vulnerable to charges of negligence. 
“Uzbekistan is so high on the list of world’s most corrupt countries that anyone at all familiar with anyone aware that Vimpelcom wanted to establish themselves there must have realized that they had a special responsibility to check whether the investment took place in a correct manner,” Sjåfjell said. 
Birthe Eriksen, an expert on corruption at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), said that US authorities were increasingly seeking to hold the board members of companies responsible for violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. 
Her colleague Tina Søreide said that executives could be charged in the US, even without any proof of direct personal involvement 
“Board members can be held accountable for the failure of systems, even if it cannot be proven that they have requested or accepted that the company become involved in corrupt practices,” she said. 
“There is evidence that board members play an important role in preventing corruption, and whistle-blowers are encouraged to contact the board if they have information about corruption,” she added. 
“Through making directors personally responsible, the justice system aims to reduce the willingness of board members to remain passive when they receive information about corruption.” 
According to Norway's Klasskampen newspaper the law firm hired by Telenor to “leave no stone unturned” in its investigation of how Telenor handled the Vimpelcom case will not touch on what information the Telenor directors on Vimpelcom's board were given. 
“When I talk about an investigation of the Telenor system, I mean it internally within Telenor,” the company's new chief executive Sigve Brekke told the newspaper. “We have no record of what has happened on Vimpelcom's board.”