VimpelCom Says Uzbek Probe Expands to U.S. Department of Justice

VimpelCom Ltd., the Russian phone carrier that said last week it’s being probed by Dutch and U.S. authorities, is also the target of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The company has been notified that it is also the focus of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice,” VimpelCom said today in a filing. “This investigation also appears to be concerned with the company’s operations in Uzbekistan.”

VimpelCom said it plans to fully cooperate with the authorities in the investigations. A VimpelCom representative couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The carrier said March 12 that its Amsterdam headquarters had been raided by Dutch prosecutors and that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission demanded documents as part of the probe into its business. Last year, VimpelCom warned investors about its relationship with Takilant Ltd., a company that is the focus of a corruption probe at Swedish rival TeliaSonera AB. TeliaSonera said yesterday it’s also being investigated by the Justice Department.

Takilant, a company with ties to President Islam Karimov, held a minority interest in VimpelCom’s business in Uzbekistan from 2007 to 2009. VimpelCom “worked with Takilant in the past” to acquire frequency in Uzbekistan, the Russian carrier said in an SEC filing last year. In 2012, Takilant was targeted by Swedish prosecutors in a probe into whether TeliaSonera knew, or should have known, that its license money went to Karimov’s family.

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