U.S. Markets closed

U.S. says Telia settles bribery case, to pay $548.6 mln

(Adds comment from Telia spokesman, paragraph 7)

NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Swedish telephone company Telia Co has agreed to pay $548.6 million in criminal penalties and a unit agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge to settle a U.S. probe of the company's alleged corruption in Uzbekistan, court papers show.

The settlement was detailed in papers made public on Thursday and being filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

According to the papers, Telia is entering a three-year deferred prosecution agreement under which it admitted and accepted responsibility for alleged corruption.

Its Coscom LLC unit in Uzbekistan is separately pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to violate anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. law, the papers show.

In a statement, Telia said it was "very close" to a final settlement with all authorities, including Dutch prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and has already set aside money for the expected financial sanctions.

Telia had estimated in April that a resolution related to its Uzbek business might cost about $1 billion.

"It's still the same amount," spokesman Ralf Bagner said on Thursday. "There has been no reason for us to change it."

According to U.S. prosecutors, Telia, Coscom and a high-ranking Telia executive conspired to pay an Uzbek government official $331.2 million in bribes in exchange for help in expanding their share of Uzbekistan's telecommunications market.

The payments were made from 2007 to 2010, and the corrupt conduct resulted in $457 million of gains for Stockholm-based Telia, the court papers show.

Deferred prosecution agreements allow companies to avoid criminal charges, so long as they comply with the terms. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom and Olof Swahnberg in Stockholm; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)