Norway’s government has no confidence in Telenor chairman Svein Aaser after receiving new information about corruption allegations against VimpelCom in Uzbekistan, less than a month after Telenor announced it would sell its entire 33% stake in the Russian group.
Telenor‘s (OSE:TEL) chairman Svein Aaser (pictured) has resigned following Norway’s government declaring it had no confidence in him after receiving new information about corruption allegations against VimpelCom (NASDAQ:VIP) in Uzbekistan.
The effective dismissal comes less than a month after Telenor, 54%-owned by the government, announced it would sell its entire 33% stake in VimpelCom, saying that its “challenging” investment in the CIS-focused telco had contributed less and less to the value of the group.
Industry minister Monica Mæland said she no longer had confidence in Aaser after receiving new information about the case that Telenor should have already disclosed to herself and Norway’s Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs.
In addition to the corruption allegations, Telenor and VimpelCom’s other major shareholder – oligarch Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group – have had a long-running dispute over ownership and strategy.
In a separate statement from Telenor, Aaser said he would resign as chairman immediately after assessing his own position as part of the group’s strategic review, which culminated in its decision to exit VimpelCom.
“The VimpelCom case has been ongoing for several years, and it has been demanding and complex to manage,” Aaser said.
He added: “I would like to emphasize that it is VimpelCom that is under investigation and that Telenor has fully cooperated with investigating authorities as a witness. The company continues to await the outcome of the investigation.”
Of Mæland, Aaser said: “The Ministry and I have had different views on the handling of the VimpelCom issue.”
In September Telenor’s Nordic neighbour TeliaSonera revealed it had begun a process to exit its seven Eurasian markets: Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Nepal and Tajikstan.
Both TeliaSonera and VimpelCom have courted controversy in Uzbekistan. Together with Russia’s MTS, which also has operations in the country, they have come under investigation by authorities in Europe and the US in connection with alleged bribery.