Feeds

GSMA politely asks Uzbekistan to free locked-up telco bods

Would be terribly nice, old boy, if you eased up on those Ruskies

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

Mobile industry body GSMA has written to Uzbekistan's president in hope of resolving the country's tiff with Russian-owned operator MTS, a dispute that cut off punters and led to the "interrogation" of staff.

MTS had its Uzbekistan licence revoked in July after five employees were cuffed on suspicion of committing a variety of alleged financial crimes. One worker has been released, but the other four remain in custody, while the nine million or so customers of MTS are without connectivity. Meanwhile, the ex-Soviet state's government has been busy seizing the telco's assets.

The company insists its staff are innocent of all the allegations, which run from tax evasion to wrongfully withdrawing cash and providing services without a licence. The operator also accused the government of a sustained campaign of intimidation designed to destabilise the company and make it easier to seize.

"Telecommunications lines that we put up were cut down. Internet access — the way our headquarters in Moscow communicates with its branches in Uzbekistan — was cut off," the company said in a statement. "Illegal audits were conducted. Bank accounts were frozen."

The arrested staff have had a hard time of it, too: the company alleged its employees have been subject to "closed-door interrogations ... without access to legal counsel, and threats of physical coercion. Other prisoners in chains are paraded in front of them as interrogators taunt: 'You're going to end up like this, in chains, if you don't sign this confession'".

MTS is listed on the New York exchange, which is why the US authorities have been involved and last month warned of "a chilling effect on foreign investment" in the country if the detained staff weren't released.

The telco reckons it has poured almost $1.5bn into the Uzbekistan business, and last week wrote down $1.1bn of that in its financial filing - accepting that the assets, if not the staff, will not be coming home. But now that the GSMA has stepped into the fray the dispute will no doubt be settled amicably.

The industry body's letter, which was posted last week but published yesterday, starts with the usual flattery before getting down to tacks and suggesting that locking up staff and denying their human rights may "make it difficult for any business to consider investment", what's more "other providers may be hesitant to make investments after seeing what has happened to MTS-Uzbekistan".

We should bloody hope so, but we don't hold out a lot of hope for the GSMA's appeal for presidential intervention - despite the offer from the director general of "any support you feel the GSMA might be able to provide and my personal input to your deliberations". ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.