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Latvian Regulator Probes TeliaSonera Transfers to Parex Account

Latvia’s bank regulator is investigating transfers made to an account at Parex Banka AS by TeliaSonera AB that involved an Uzbek mobile license and led to the resignation of the company’s chief executive officer.

“The processes are continuing, yet it’s too early to talk about the results,” Ieva Upleja, a spokeswoman for the Latvian Financial and Capital Markets Commission, said in a statement late yesterday.

TeliaSonera’s Chief Executive Officer Lars Nyberg resigned on Feb. 1 after a legal firm hired to investigate graft accusations said the carrier should have been more careful when it bought an Uzbek phone license in 2007. Mannheimer Swartling, the law firm, said in its review that TeliaSonera transferred money into accounts in Nordea Bank AB and Parex held by a Gibraltar-based Takilant Ltd. as part of the mobile deal.

Kristina Hunter Nilsson, a spokeswoman for TeliaSonera in Stockholm, was today not immediately able to comment on the Latvian probe.

Swedish prosecutors opened an investigation last year into whether the country’s largest operator knew, or should have known, when it bought an Uzbeki phone license from Takilant in 2007 that the money went to President Islam Karimov’s family.

The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority on April 16 fined Nordea 30 million kronor ($4.6 million) for being “deficient in its handling of the EU sanctions regulations and in its work to prevent money laundering.”

Latvia’s regulator found that Nordea’s unit in the Baltic country didn’t have weaknesses in its system that would allow transfers such as in Sweden, said Upleja.

Parex was Latvia’s second-biggest bank in 2008 when it needed a state rescue. The government took over the lender and split it into a good and bank, creating a new lender called Citadele Banka AS and an asset management company renamed Reverta AS.

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