Regulatory compliance translation is becoming more and more common as business goes global, and companies face foreign practices that may not be entirely ethical. Members of the international community now demand that companies be responsible for the actions of their foreign subsidiaries, and that they operate in a legal and ethical manner. Telia company is another recent example of a global business caught under accusation of corruption, and serves as another warning for all global companies who do business abroad.
Regulatory Compliance Translation | Telia Company Facing Corruption Charges in Uzbekistan
A new anti- bribery/anti-corruption violation settlement proposed by U.S. and Dutch authorities to the Swedish Telecommunications Business, Telia Company, threatens to dwarf all previous fines imposed upon internationally operating companies. Telia Company, previously known as TeliaSonera, faces a sanction totaling $1.4 billion for “unethical” actions in Uzbekistan. Chairwoman of Telia, Marie Ehrling, stated that the company’s “initial reaction to the proposal is that the amount is very high.” Whether or not it is too high for the actions commit by Telia is yet to be determined; however, the dollar amount does happen to be much higher than the previous record of the most expensive settlement. That settlement belongs to Siemens Company that paid $800 million in disgorgement and fines in 2008.
Telia acquired 3G rights in Uzbekistan for $320 million from Takilant Limited, a company registered in Gibraltar. Earlier this year Dutch- based Telecommunication Company VimpelCom paid $397.6 million U.S.D. to the U.S. government for distributing bribes to Uzbek officials through an intermediary of Takilant Limited. Takilant is also infamous for its association with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the recently deceased president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov. Before Karimova was put under house arrest by her father two years ago due to family squabbles, she was one of the richest businesswomen in the world. According to U.S. diplomats in Uzbekistan, Karimova “bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business in the country”. In 2014, prosecutors in Switzerland seized about $820 million as part of a money-laundering investigation on Karimova. However, Karimova’s Swiss- appointed defense attorney states that he has not contacted Karimova because of her involuntary confinement.
Uzbekistan and Corruption
According to the survey administered by Transparency International, (an international, non-governmental not for profit organization) with a purpose to combat corruption) Uzbekistan ranked #153 out of 168 on the corruption scale (#1 being the least corrupt and #168 the most). The high level of corruption in Uzbekistan is typical for most of the post- Soviet countries with an exception of the Baltic republics. It was also noted that Sweden and Finland, that occupy the 3rd and the 2nd place in the same list, are the primary owners of Telia with 37.3% ownership and 3.2% ownership respectively. It’s difficult to believe, but many Western and Northern European companies with minimal corruption rates at home, assume the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” principle when they go abroad, especially to less economically developed countries.
The History and Language of Uzbekistan
The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created in 1924 as a part of the U.S.S.R. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Uzbek government under the leadership of Islam Karimov (ruled 1990- 2016) actively promoted isolationism and neutrality as their foreign policy agenda. In any case many human right organizations, including: IHF, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International consider Uzbekistan to be: “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights”.
Prior to its involvement in the U.S.S.R, Uzbekistan was frequently passed through by nomadic tribes migrating west from East Asia. The territory belonged to the Persian Empire, the Empire of Alexander the Great, and Mongol Khanate.
The Uzbek language itself has undergone quite a transformation, as it has been written in three different scripts. Historically, it used Yana imla (Arabic script) like all Turkic languages in Central Asia. When the Russian Empire expanded its influence to Central Asia, an attempt to introduce the Cyrillic alphabet was made as the basis for a new script, however it remained unpopular. The Latin alphabet was introduced in 1928, mimicking the Latinization of Turkish, after World War I under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It too did not last long, and in 1940 Uzbekistan switched back to the Cyrillic style as a part of a pro-Russian Stalinist Centralization movement. After the separation of Uzbekistan from Soviet Union, the Latin alphabet was officially introduced once again, albeit today Cyrillic is still widely used on television and in newspapers.
The Uzbek language is a key factor in businesses operating in the country and looking to protect themselves from corruption abroad. Regulatory compliance translation is part of due diligence when a company suspects that something unethical may have happened, as well as during cases of international corruption.
Corruption Prevention and Regulatory Compliance Translation
Coming from Sweden, Telia is expected to meet the world’s compliance standards. Nevertheless, cases of a similar nature – where companies slide into bribery when doing business in countries more affected by corruption – are quite common. The East and the West are now culturally, philosophically and economically tied closer than at any time before in human history. It is now expected that the world community should promote a healthy, honest and corruption-free environment for international business.
One way this must be accomplished is by being familiar with the culture and language of the country you are doing business in. Knowing the Uzbek language is especially important in the event that you become involved with an FCPA or compliance document review. Uzbek translators will be necessary in order to help with regulatory compliance translation services – such as translating important documents for legal cases or pointing out key phrases that are commonly used to refer to bribes or other forms of corruption. Having a plan in place with a Language Service Provider, who can offer you professional regulatory compliance translation services in a variety of world languages, is an important step in combating international corruption.
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