Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler presenting the charges against Telia's former top bosses.
Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler presenting the charges against Telia's former top bosses. Credit: Anders Wiklund/TT

Prosecutor: Telia ex-CEO failed to stop bribery

Head of Anti-Corruption Institute: Sweden is perceived as being corruption-free, but it's not.
3:30 min

Swedish prosecutors leveled criminal charges against former Telia CEO Lars Nyberg and two other senior company officials on Friday for their involvement in the company’s bribery scheme in Uzbekistan.

Telia and its subsidiary, Coscom LLC, have admitted to making illegal payments of SEK 2.6 billion to various Uzbek government officials to win business contracts in the country starting in 2007. Nyberg left Telia, then called Telia Sonera, in 2013.

Swedish prosecutors said that Nyberg was informed, on several occasions, that there were concerns about the way the company was operating in Uzbekistan, but he failed to take action.

"When Lars Nyberg starts, the business was up and running. Our view is that he has enough information to understand that this is bribery, but he didn't do anything," Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler said.

All of the accused deny the charges of aggravated bribery. The maximum sentence for the gross misconduct is six years in prison.

Telia issued a press release stating that it "has a good and constructive co-operation with the Swedish Prosecution Authority and the Swedish Police in the investigations of suspected corruption and we are very confident in the prosecutors and their work."

Additionally, The Stockholm-based telecom company will pay $965M (approximately SEK 8 billion) in fines to settle a corruption case in which the company paid bribes between 2007 and 2010.

Experts say this case is one of the largest corporate bribery cases in Swedish history. It also shows that Sweden, a nation often praised for its transparency and anti-corruption work, is susceptible to misconduct.

"This shows, and I know there are some other cases, that when Swedish companies are doing export business there are corruption challenges being faced by the companies," said Natali Phalén, ‎Secretary General for the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute.

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