VimpelCom CEO resigns amid corruption probe

Jason McGee-Abe
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Mikhail Slobodin’s resignation as CEO of VimpelCom Russia (Beeline) has been accepted, with immediate effect, after he was linked to a probe looking into suspected corruption at former company IES Holding

Mikhail SlobodinSlobodin, who from February 2003 to December 2010 was president, CEO and on the board of directors at Integrated Energy Systems (IES) Holding, renamed T Plus in June 2015, was named as a “person of interest” in a corruption probe into the company by Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (TFR).

Federal investigators yesterday announced the arrests of Evgeny Olykhov, managing director of the Renova Group, and Boris Vainzikher, general director of Renova’s energy subsidiary T Plus. Both men are suspected of bribing officials in northern Russia’s Komi Republic.

The Viktor Vekselberg-owned conglomerate is suspected of having paid bribes between 2007 and 2014 amounting to 800 million rubles ($12 million), in exchange for “favourable working conditions” with electricity and heat tariffs , according to a statement by TFR spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Slobodin, who was appointed as head of VimpelCom Russia in September 2013, reportedly told colleagues that he would resign to avoid damaging the company’s reputation, according to reports from Russia’s Vedomosti. The paper also claims that he is presently in France on business but intends to return to Russia before the end of the week to face TFR questioning.

Kjell Johnsen, head of major markets, has immediately replaced Slobodin as Beeline’s new CEO, despite only joining the Russian operator last month on August 4 from Telenor, where he was head of Telenor Europe. "Kjell has extensive experience in the country and will continue to drive the company's transformation forward," said a VimpelCom statement.

Earlier this year VimpelCom paid a $795 million fine to settle a bribery case in Uzbekistan and VimpelCom co-owner Telenor is still looking to sell its 33% stake in VimpelCom. GTB