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Truphone to pay $600,000 U.S. fine, ensure Russian ownership divested

Truphone to pay $600,000 U.S. fine, ensure Russian ownership divested
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By Reuters
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON - The parent company of a small Montana wireless carrier will pay a $600,000 fine and ensure that any ownership interests by Russian investors is divested, a U.S. agency said on Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in April said Truphone, the owner of Montana-based iSmart Mobile, had been indirectly controlled by Russian oligarchs since at least 2011. Under the settlement, London-based Truphone will ensure that any stake held by Alexander Abramov, Alexander Frolov or Roman Abramovich will be divested, the FCC said.

The FCC had proposed fining Truphone $660,000 in April for failing to disclose accurate ownership stakes held by foreign entities and transferring control of licenses without government approval.

Truphone admitted to the violations and directed by the FCC to review its ownership structure to determine if the company should be referred to the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector, the FCC said.

Truphone said it will ensure no individuals or entities designated by the Treasury Department's sanction list have any ownership or investment interests.

The FCC said that during its investigation, Truphone disclosed in March that a company controlled by Abramovich and his children held a 22.8% stake in the company through a trust.

"Pursuing unauthorized transactions that impact foreign ownership, control, or investment in entities that possess FCC authorizations or licenses is one of our top priorities,” said Loyaan Egal, the acting chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau.

The Financial Times reported in June that two European tech entrepreneurs were purchasing Truphone for 1 pound ($1.12). Truphone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In June, a U.S. court issued warrants for the seizure of two luxury planes worth nearly $400 million owned by Abramovich under U.S. measures imposed after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

($1 = 0.8913 pounds)

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