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TELIA CORRUPTION SCANDAL

CORRUPTION

TeliaSonera Uzbek deal prompts bribery probe

The Swedish prosecution authority has launched a preliminary corruption probe into TeliaSonera's licence acquisition in Uzbekistan, the Finnish-Swedish telecom operator said on Wednesday.

TeliaSonera Uzbek deal prompts bribery probe

Last week Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news programme “Uppdrag granskning” claimed that TeliaSonera had paid 2.2 billion kronor ($333 million) to Takilant Limited to obtain a 3G licence in the country and a 26 percent stake in mobile carrier Ucell.

Takilant is owned by a 22-year-old woman with links to the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

“The anticorruption unit of the Swedish Prosecuting Authorities has now initiated an investigation, which we welcome. TeliaSonera will cooperate fully with the investigation,” the Nordic company said in a statement.

“The Swedish police have collected information from TeliaSonera regarding Uzbekistan,” it said, adding that the company has also launched an external review into the allegations.

Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler confirmed to news agency TT that he was responsible for the investigation but declined to comment further.

“I am convinced that TeliaSonera did not bribe anyone or take part in any money laundering,” chief executive Lars Nyberg said last week, according to the same agency.

He insisted that Takilant was the legitimate owner of the licence TeliaSonera acquired.

However, he acknowledged that “other beneficiaries might be behind the woman”, but said TeliaSonera’s own examination of the issue had turned up nothing.

Bribery carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison in Sweden.

AFP/The Local

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BUSINESS

Sweden slips in global corruption rankings

Sweden has dropped from third to fourth in an annual ranking comparing the levels of perceived corruption around the world.

Sweden slips in global corruption rankings
How corrupt is Sweden? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Its Scandinavian neighbour Denmark shared first place with New Zealand in this year's Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International on Wednesday and ranking how corrupted countries were seen to be in 2016.

Both Denmark and New Zealand were given a score of 90 on the 0 to 100 scale (highly corrupt to very clean), followed closely by Finland and Sweden, which scored 89 and 88 respectively.

While still in the top-five of 176 countries, Sweden found itself pushed down one notch from last year and the group's Sweden office warned that this was no time to be complacent.

“Sweden's good performance in the 2016 index does not mean that we are spared from corruption in the public sector,” Ulla Andrén, chairwoman of Transparency International Sweden, said in a statement.

“Over the past year we have unfortunately seen how core values have wavered considerably. Leading figures have turned out to lack an ethical compass and corrupt behaviour has damaged trust in various public institutions.”

READ ALSO: Why Denmark is world's least corrupt country

Major Swedish institutions were rocked by scandals last year, including claims of cronyism and cover-ups at the state auditor Riksrevisionen and tax agency Skatteverket. Some of the country's largest businesses, such as Telia and Ericsson, have also faced allegations of illicit payouts.

“We believe that everything colloquially referred to as cronyism is corruption,” Lotta Rydström, executive secretary of Transparency International Sweden, told The Local.

“Transparency International's definition of corruption is wider than just bribes: 'Corruption is abuse of entrusted power for personal gain', which includes nepotism, buddy contracts and so on.”

“I would probably also say that several bribe-related incidents in the business world have shown that Sweden is not as spared (from corruption) as many think,” she said.

Rydström warned that the corruption index does not cover local and regional councils, where much of the political decisions are made in Sweden. Municipalities and county councils make up around 70 percent of public administration in the country.

“A high rating does not mean that we can beat our chest and say we are still almost the best student in the classroom. Good can get better and there is plenty to work on. Public procurement, municipal auditing and whistleblower protection are some of the issues we are working on.”

As a whole, Transparency International said that no nation in the world – Sweden included – is doing enough to fight corruption.

“There are no drastic changes in Europe and Central Asia in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, with only a few exceptions. However, this does not mean that the region is immune from corruption. The stagnation does not indicate that the fight against corruption has improved, but quite the opposite,” it wrote in the report.