Thursday, February 18, 2016

VimpelCom to pay $795 mln to resolve U.S., Dutch bribery probes: Reuters

VimpelCom to pay $795 mln to resolve U.S., Dutch bribery probes

By Nate Raymond and Anthony Deutsch

VimpelCom Ltd, an Amsterdam-based telecommunications operator, said on Thursday it would pay $795 million to resolve U.S. and Dutch probes into a bribery scheme in Uzbekistan, in the second largest global anti-corruption settlement in history.
The settlement was announced in a federal court in Manhattan, where a subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate a U.S. anti-corruption law by paying $114 million in bribes from 2006 to 2012 to a Uzbekistan official.

The official, described in court papers as high-ranking and a relative of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, matched the description of his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, who has long been identified as being at the center of the probe.

     Justice Department lawyer Nicola Mrazek told the court that investigations into individuals affiliated with the case remain ongoing. 
   Mark Rochon attorney for  VimpelCom and its Uzbek subsidiary Unitel LLC came to court for the first guilty pleas of what prosecutors call a "coordinated global resolution." Seated next to Mr Rochon, General Counsel  Scott Dresser  who pleaded guilty on behalf of the company.

DOJ  Trial Attorney Ephraim Wernick makes statement to Judge Ramos outlining the case. 

VimpelCom's settlement, which called for the retention of a compliance monitor, resolved probes by the Justice Department, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands.
It marked a near record for a global anti-corruption accord, behind only Siemens AG's $1.3 billion settlement in 2008 that resolved wide-ranging bribery probes in the United States and Germany.
    In accepting the resolution, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos remarked that the scale of the FCPA conspiracy was literally "off the charts" in terms of the federal sentencing guidelines.

VimpelCom, whose biggest shareholders are Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's LetterOne and Norway's Telenor, took a $900 million provision in November to resolve the investigations.
Under the deal, VimpleCom entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which U.S. criminal charges will be dropped in three years if it follows the agreement's terms.
Uzbek subsidiary Unitel LLC pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"The company deeply regrets its actions here, and we will make sure it never happens again," Scott Dresser, VimpelCom's general counsel, said in court.
U.S. and Dutch authorities said the investigation continued into other companies and individuals involved in the scheme, including one man Dutch prosecutors said was arrested in November.

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