The Justice Department is seeking to seize $300 million claimed to be the proceeds of an international bribery conspiracy involving two Russian phone companies, as the U.S. joins a group of European nations in a telecom corruption probe.
The U.S. claims VimpelCom Ltd., part-owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, and Mobile TeleSystems OJSC used a web of shell companies and phony consulting contracts to funnel bribes to a close relative of Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, in exchange for access to that country’s telecommunications market. The assets sought by the U.S., in a complaint filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, are held in Bank of New York Mellon Corp. in Ireland, Luxembourg and Belgium.
VimpelCom said in March 2014 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.
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