August 14, 2015 / 9:24 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. authorities seek to seize $1 billion in telecom probe: WSJ

Gulnara Karimova (C), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov attends an Independence Day celebration in Tashkent August 31, 2012.Shamil Zhumatov

(Reuters) - U.S. authorities are asking counterparts in Europe to seize about $1 billion in assets related to an investigation into three telecom companies and intermediaries close to the daughter of Uzbekistan's president, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Vimpelcom Ltd VIP.O, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) MTSS.MM (MBT.N) and TeliaSonera AB TLSN.ST are under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as some authorities in Europe.

U.S. prosecutors are investigating payments they believe were made to businesses controlled by Gulnara Karimova, daughter of President Islam Karimov, in an effort to secure wireless frequencies and other deals in Uzbekistan, the Journal reported, citing court documents and people with direct knowledge of the probe. (on.wsj.com/1NtnfcM)

Reuters could not reach Karimova for comment.

No individual or company has been charged as part of these investigations.

MTS, Russia's biggest mobile phone operator, said it was cooperating with U.S. authorities and providing all necessary documents and information.

"MTS is not the owner of the assets in relation to which U.S. authorities have sent requests to a number of European countries to assist in freezing assets," the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Amsterdam-based mobile operator Vimpelcom, with assets in Russia, Italy and various emerging markets, declined immediate comment. The company has previously said it was cooperating with authorities.

A spokesman for Sweden's TeliaSonera said the company was cooperating with authorities and had no further comment on the Journal story.

The U.S. Department of Justice and SEC were not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru, Maria Kiselyova in Moscow and Olof Swahnberg in Stockholm; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter

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