• Sweden edition
 
TeliaSonera under fire over Uzbek bribe claims

TeliaSonera under fire over Uzbek bribe claims

Published: 20 Sep 2012 10:05 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Sep 2012 10:05 GMT+02:00

The CEO of TeliaSonera, the Nordic telecoms firm in which the Swedish state has the largest ownership stake, said he was prepared to resign should new money laundering and bribery accusations related to the firm's contracts in Uzbekistan prove true.

TeliaSonera head Lars Nyberg said that the accusations were severe, but that he welcomed an investigation of the company.

“It’s extremely serious when Sveriges Television accuses the country’s biggest company of bribery and corruption,” he told Sveriges Radio (SR) on Thursday.

When asked how he would react if the information about the money laundering proved to be true, Nyberg responded: “I’d resign, I suppose”.

Nyberg’s comments came on the heels of claims made by Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news programme "Uppdrag Gränskning" about how TeliaSonera secured contracts in Uzbekistan.

The company was awarded contracts worth billions of kronor to provide mobile telephone services in Uzbekistan.

However, the funds paid by the company in exchange for the contracts were funneled through a woman with close ties to the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, according to SVT.

The woman, named as Gayane Avakyan, is tied to the Gibraltar-based company Takilant, which served as TeliaSonera's local partner when the Nordic telecom firm established operations in Uzbekistan six years ago.

Takilant received around 2.2 billion kronor ($337 million) for 3G licenses, according to SVT.

But in the public records of Takilant's accounting, there is no trace of TeliaSonera's payments in either money or stock.

SVT pointed to strong connections between Avakyan and Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has blocked bank accounts containing several hundreds of millions of dollars in the probe, money which is believed to belong to Karimov's regime.

According to TeliaSonera, paying out large amounts of money to a small, private company in a tax haven was completely normal when conducting business in Uzbekistan.

“We’ve paid money to a company that was the rightful owner of frequencies and licenses in Uzbekistan that we needed for telecom operations in the country,” said head of communications Cecilia Edström to SVT.

“We have looked into whether the person who represented the company had a mandate to do so and in addition we have not been able to prove if there were any other people behind it or who they were.”

She could not give a direct answer as to whether TeliaSonera had bribed Gulnara Karimova and the Uzbek regime. But Tom von Weymarn, former chairman of the company, answered “absolutely not.”

“TeliaSonera did not make a transaction with Karimova or the regime, but with a company,” said Edström.

“The company was properly registered, Dutch lawyers made an investigation into the risk for money laundering and Avakyan had a mandate to represent the company.”

Edström concedes that there was a risk that other people were behind the company that could have gotten a portion of the money.

“But it was nothing we could prove when we did this transaction,” she said

TeliaSonera denies that the company was the subject of a Swiss money laundering investigation.

“We’ve not been contacted at all by police or any other authorities concerning a Swiss crime investigation,” Edström said.

TeliaSonera also claimed Wednesday that the figure paid by the company was 200 million kronor and not two billion.

In a press conference on Thursday, CEO Nyberg characterized the payments as "an investment" rather than a bribe.

“I am convinced that TeliaSonera has not bribed anyone, or taken part in any money laundering,” he said.

Nyberg added that the company would nevertheless launch an external investigation into its dealings in Uzbekistan.

TT/The Local/og

Follow The Local on Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

11:28 September 20, 2012 by RobinHood
According to Transparency International's corruption index, Uzbekistan is the joint fifth most corrupt country in the entire world. Is there a single Swedish company or person that does business in Uzbekistan, or even a single Swedish visitor to Uzbekistan, that has not paid a bribe to someone there? I doubt it.

Somehow TeliaSonera will have to find a way out of Uzbekistan clutching what's left of its integrity. Swedish business ethics and the realities of doing business in Uzbekistan are incompatible. TeliaSonera should have known that from the beginning. That's where poor Mr Nyberg went wrong; he'll have to go if it's true.
13:25 September 20, 2012 by Abe L
This is how like the 10th posting on this subject, just a different country. When do people realise that this is how you do business in such countries. It is in everyone's best interest if TeliaSonera is doing well, they provide a fair amount of jobs and pay a lot of tax. Stop slamming such companies when they expand aboard but instead encourage it!
07:03 September 21, 2012 by Uncle
Spot on Abe.

IMHO, What the moronic legislation in Sweden wants is to accept flows of uneducated asylum seekers, but it forbids the companies to actually try and raise the economies of these corrupt dictatorships, so they would have something to lose if they engage in wars or risk revolution.

At the same time these ethical committees whine about cooperation with Saudis, who are not corrupt. In effect, they are trying to block Swedish trade in the developing world to 100%.

What the need to understand is that there is no other way in a poor dictatorship to conduct business by definition. So it is whether bribing, or letting these countries continue to live on cocain trade and have 60% unemployment rate that breeds Islamism and hence intolerance, women oppression, gay execution and constant warring.
Today's headlines
Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

Good weather could blight Easter traffic
Easter traffic two years ago on the E4 motorway. File: Jessica Gow/TT

Good weather could blight Easter traffic

Traffic experts have cautioned Swedes heading to the countryside for what should be a sunny Easter, warning that the most serious accidents often take place when the weather is clement. READ () »

Saab offers Gripen lease to Malaysia
Jas Gripen jets in flight. File photo: TT

Saab offers Gripen lease to Malaysia

Swedish defence giant Saab has offered to rent out fighter jets to Malaysia. READ () »

What's On in Sweden

What's On in Sweden

Check out what's happening with The Local's guide to the main attractions and events in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö - in association with DoToday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

754
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com