9 august 2016

Dutch prosecution of Uzbek-owned firm TAKILANT

The recent procedure is part of a wider investigation by U.S., Dutch, Swedish and Swiss authorities into claims that phone carriers VimpelCom, Teliasonera and Mobile TeleSystems PJSC paid bribes in exchange for business and investment opportunities in Uzbekistan. The allegations have focused on the Uzbek-owned firm TAKILANT, which is linked to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of President Islam Karimov.

The ruling of the Dutch court is the result of an investigation at the hearing on July 6, 2016, held by the prosecutors M. van Turennout and J.M. Mul. The prosecution was claimed to be admissible under Article 2 of the Dutch criminal law, since it is applicable to any person guilty of a criminal offense in the Netherlands and the firm verifiably had requested and accepted bribes from two Netherlands-based companies.

TAKILANT was established in Gibraltar. Its sole shareholder and director during the relevant period, Gayane Avakyan, is residing in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. Avakyan, a former close associate of the Uzbek President’s daughter Gulnara Karimova, was twenty years old when TAKILANT was incorporated in 2004 and had no significant experience in the telecommunications industry.

TAKILANT was indicted for having received payments from companies in Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands totaling more than 300 million Euros to have a civil servant of the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Information grant permits to subsidiaries of VimpelCom and Teliasonera. The foreign official, having de facto control over a government agency and holding positions in the telecommunications market, was considered a high-rank state official and thus civil servant within the meaning of Article 363 in conjunction with 364a of the Uzbek Penal Code. He was also declared guilty of passive bribery.

While having found guilty of complicity to bribery and forgery, TAKILANT was found not guilty of money laundering as the Court concluded that there was no evidence that the companies’ money used for these payments had resulted from any crime. The court ordered TAKILANT to pay a fine of about 1.6 million Euros.

From the investigation it also appeared that the daughter of the President of Uzbekistan Gulnara Karimova is suspected to be the actual owner and beneficiary of TAKILANT. Evidence shows that the telecommunication providers in order to get access to the Uzbek telecom market deliberately set up sham contracts to conceal bribe payments to Gulnara Karimova and to purchase consultancy services and frequencies. Fake service and proxy shareholder acted to conceal Karimova’s identity and the real purpose of the contract.

In the period between December 2007 and February 2010 in Rotterdam, together and in association with a foreign official, Karimova in turn directly or indirectly gave gifts in order to make the officer take actions in the ministry, in breach of his duty. The official was accused of complicity since he had accepted gifts, despite knowing that the aim of these gifts was to manipulate the ministry. In his judgment, the court noted that the acceptance of gifts by officials generally harms the people’s confidence in public authorities and the dignity of the state.


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