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Major bribery allegations against Ericsson

Published onsdag 23 november 2016 kl 07.10
Insider: We are talking 100s of millions
(3:03 min)
Telecom giant Ericsson facing corruption probes in Greece and US.
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Telecom giant Ericsson facing corruption probes in Greece and the US. Credit: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/TT
Liss Olof Nenzell, an earlier employee at Ericsson, photographed at the airport before flying off to the US to give evidence to American financial authority SEC. Credit: Daniel Öhman/Sveriges Radio.
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Liss Olof Nenzell, an earlier employee at Ericsson, photographed at the airport before flying off to the US to give evidence to American financial authority SEC. Credit: Daniel Öhman/Sveriges Radio.

[This is an archived article from November 2016 and some information may be out of date.]

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson paid out millions in systematic bribes at the end of the 90s and early 2000s to win business contracts in a number of countries, several of the company's former executives tell Swedish Radio News.

Costa Rica's former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez is named as one of the recipients of the alleged bribes.

Several former unnamed executives at Ericsson, who spoke to Swedish Radio News, say that frontmen on behalf of the company paid out bribes to win contracts in a number of countries. This is alleged to have occurred during the late 1990s and early 00s, a time when the development of mobile telephony dramatically changed the market in which Ericsson has long been a major global player.

According to Swedish Radio News, Ericsson's management were well informed that they were working with bribery in this way.

Liss Olof Nenzell, a former Ericsson employee in Switzerland who worked with confidential payments at the end of the 90s, tells Swedish Radio News that it was about paying big amounts to the right people at ministerial and director level around the world. 

"We're talking 100s of millions. To several countries," he says to Ekot.

Ericsson fought for a comprehensive state telecom contracts in Costa Rica in the late 1990s, and in 1999 the company set up SEK 2.5 million in a bank account in the tax haven of Panama, reports Ekot.

According to Ekot, which has studied the documents and testimonies, the bank account belonged to the then president Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

"The information is very troublesome for Ericsson," says lawyer Peter Utterström, one of the leading experts on corruption, to Swedish Radio News:

"It's hard to explain what motivates the payment other than that would be a payment to obtain a benefit, and then we all know what it's about," he says.

"It's about corruption."

Both Greek and US authorities are investigating corruption suspicions against Ericsson. And the case in the United States may now be growing, largely because of Liss Olof Nenzell - the former employee who is now going to take secret documents he had been sitting on for many years and submit them to the American financial authority SEC.

"I should have done this earlier. But better late than never," he says to Ekot from the airport.

Ericsson, which denies the allegations, could be forced to pay many millions in fines if found guilty of corruption by SEC. Earlier this year, US and Dutch authorities told TeliaSonera to pay over SEK 12 billion for their corruption dealings in Uzbekistan. 

In a statement, Ericsson, said that it has zero tolerance against corruption and "rejects generalizations that Ericsson as a company systematically acted in a manner contrary to our own guidelines and principles".

The Costa Rican ex-president, Miguel Angel Rodriguez denies that he took kickbacks from Ericsson.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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