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In an annual report filed with the SEC on March 20, 2017, ING Groep, N.V., a Netherlands-based financial services company, stated that it is under criminal investigation by Dutch authorities “regarding various requirements related to the on-boarding of clients, money laundering, and corrupt practices,” and that it has also received “related information requests” from U.S. authorities. A spokesperson for the Dutch prosecutor reportedly expressed suspicion that ING failed to report irregular transactions and may have enabled international corruption, including unusual payments made by VimpelCom, the Russian telecom company, to a government official in Uzbekistan through a shell company. VimpelCom settled bribery charges with the U.S. and Dutch governments in February 2016, admitting to paying bribes amounting over $114 million to an Uzbek official and agreeing to pay over $397 million in penalties to the DOJ and SEC for violations of the FCPA. ING stated that it is cooperating with the ongoing investigations and requests of Dutch and U.S. authorities.
On February 18, VimpelCom Ltd. and its Uzbek subsidiary, Unitel LLC, reached a global settlement with the SEC, DOJ, and Dutch regulators Openbarr Ministerie (OM) and the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD), in which VimpelCom will pay more than $795 million to resolve FCPA violations in Uzbekistan. The Amsterdam-based telecommunications provider was charged with bribing an Uzbek government official related to the President of Uzbekistan in exchange for government-issued licenses. Between 2006 and 2012, VimpelCom and Unitel made more than $114 million in bribe payments through an entity affiliated with the Uzbek official and disguised approximately half a million dollars as charitable donations made to charities affiliated with the Uzbek official. The terms of the settlement require VimpelCom to pay $397.5 million to Dutch regulators, $230.1 million to the DOJ, and $167.5 million to the SEC; VimpelCom must also retain an independent corporate monitor for three years. DOJ also filed a forfeiture proceeding, seeking more than $550 million held in Swiss bank accounts which it alleged were funds that VimpelCom and two other telecommunications companies used to bribe and/or launder the bribe payments to the Uzbek official. This forfeiture complaint follows the DOJs earlier forfeiture complaint filed on June 29, 2015, seeking forfeiture of more than $300 million in funds held in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland.
Developments in Uzbekistan Telecommunications FCPA Investigations: Dutch Telecommunications Company Makes Provision in Connection with Investigation and DOJ Names Russian Telecommunications Company in Civil Forfeiture Action
On November 3, VimpelCom, a Dutch telecommunications company, announced that based on the company's ongoing assessment of ongoing FCPA investigations, it would make a provision in the amount of $900 million in its third quarter financial statements. The company previously disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service were conducting investigations related to VimpelCom's business in Uzbekistan and prior dealings with Takilant Ltd., a Gibralter-registered company that negotiates mobile phone licenses on behalf of the Uzbek government. On November 5, another company under investigation for its conduct in Uzbekistan, Mobile TeleSystems PJSC ("MTP"), disclosed that the DOJ had referenced it in a civil forfeiture complaint. DOJ's complaint was directed at an unnamed Uzbek government official, but the complaint alleged that MTP and certain other parties made corrupt payments to the unnamed official to gain access to the Uzbek telecommunications market.
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