The Norwegian government expressed a lack of confidence in the Telenor chairman, Svein Aaser, having obtained further disclosures in the VimpelCom corruption case.
“I have now received new information about the [VimpelCom] case. This is information that both the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs and I should have had earlier. I mean it’s serious,” said Monica Maeland, the country’s minister of trade and industry, in a statement.
However, Maeland did not disclose anything further. “For the sake of the investigation, I cannot yet say more about the new information we have received,” she said.
The Norwegian government holds a 54 per cent stake in Telenor.
VimpelCom, in which Telenor holds a 33 per cent stake, is one of three operators in Uzbekistan which are the subject of an investigation by US authorities concerning allegations they paid bribes to obtain spectrum and other benefits. The Norwegian operator is keen to offload its stake.
Aaser (pictured), who has served as chairman since May 2012, is to be replaced with immediate effect.
For his part, Aaser tended his resignation with a statement: “The Ministry and I have had different views on the handling of the VimpelCom issue. I have informed the Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Maeland, about my decision. Beyond today’s statement, I have no further comments,” he said.
He described the VimpelCom case as being “demanding and complex to manage”.
“VimpelCom has been under investigation for several years, and this has been challenging for Telenor. I would like to emphasise that it is VimpelCom that is under investigation and that Telenor has fully cooperated with investigating authorities as a witness,” he said.