DOJ indicts Karimova for taking $866 million in bribes

The DOJ unsealed charges Thursday against an Uzbek telecom exec and the daughter of the former Uzbek president for their roles in an $866 million bribery and money laundering scheme.

Gulnara Karimova, 46, was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, the DOJ said.

Bekhzod Akhmedov, the former head of MTS Uzbek subsidiary Uzdunrobita, was charged with two counts of violating the FCPA, one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the DOJ, Karimova demanded “hundreds of millions” in bribes from Telia, Vimpelcom, and MTS to acquire telecom licenses in Uzbekistan. At the time, her father, the late Islam Karimov, was the president of Uzbekistan.

Akhmedov arranged the payment of around $866 million in bribes to Karimova on behalf of the companies, the DOJ said.

According to the DOJ, Karimova conspired to launder the bribes through U.S. bank accounts.

Karimova is considered a “foreign official” under the FCPA, the unsealed charging documents said.

The Uzbek telecom licenses weren’t allowed to be purchased or transferred by private entities.

MTS, Russia’s largest telecom company, settled FCPA charges with the DOJ and SEC earlier this week and agreed to pay $850 million in penalties.

The bribes allowed MTS to enter the telecommunications market in Uzbekistan and operate there for eight years, during which it generated more than $2.4 billion in revenues, the SEC said.

Last year, Sweden’s Telia paid $965 million in total penalties to resolve FCPA offenses in Uzbekistan. The penalties were paid to enforcement agencies in the United States, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

In 2016, Amsterdam-based VimpelCom reached a $795 million FCPA resolution with the DOJ and SEC. Some of the penalties went to Dutch enforcement authorities.

MTS, Telia, and VimpelCom admitted to bribing Karimova. She’s been under house arrest in Uzbekistan since 2014.

In 2015, the DOJ asked authorities in several European countries to freeze about $1 billion in assets linked to her.

Karimova once served as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United Nations. She also designed clothes and sometimes appeared on the catwalk.

The unsealed indictment against Karimova and Akhmedov can be viewed here.

The FCPA Blog | March 7, 2019