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CORRUPTION

TeliaSonera CEO ‘forced’ to leave post early: report

TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg will be leaving his post early in the wake of bribery scandals and the Nordic telecom firm's dealings with dictators. A search for his replacement is already underway.

TeliaSonera CEO 'forced' to leave post early: report

Nyberg was scheduled to step down as head of TeliaSonera, in which the Swedish state has the largest ownership stake, at the end of 2013.

But now it appears as if Nyberg will be leaving the Finnish-Swedish telecom firm early.

“We can assume that a change in CEO will take place earlier than the previously planned departure at the end of next year,” a source with insight into TeliaSonera’s recruiting process told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

According to the paper, Nyberg’s departure has been hastened due to dissatisfaction over TeliaSonera’s business deals in dictatorships like Belarus and Uzbekistan, as well as a number of bribery scandals.

The company has already contacted one of Europe’s top headhunting firms to assist in the search for Nyberg’s replacement, DN reported.

Last week, Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman demanded changes to the TeliaSonera board of directors, saying the government wanted the company to bring in board members with expertise in human rights.

“As the largest owner, we’re going to send a request to the nomination committee to bring that sort of expertise to the board,” he told reporters ahead of a parliamentary committee meeting during which TeliaSonera’s business deals in Uzbekistan were discussed.

Earlier this week, the TT news agency reported on documents which pointed to direct links between TeliaSonera’s Uzbek business partner and the family of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, whose much criticized rule of the country began in 1991.

A man suspected of bribery while serving as the representative for the TeliaSonera’s partner also runs a company with the president’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

Their signatures are seen side by side on documents establishing the company, including the by-laws and name registration documents.

The primary owner of the firm is Gulnara Karimova and the CEO is bribery suspect Alisher Ergashev, who also serves as the representative for Takilant, TeliaSonera’s Girbralter-registered partner for doing business in Uzbekistan.

Last month, Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news programme “Uppdrag granskning” reported that Karimova had close ties to people connected with Takilant, but the documents revealed by TT were the first written confirmation of a formal, direct business link between Takilant officials and the Uzbek president’s daughter.

Revelations aired on the SVT programme that TeliaSonera had paid 2.2 billion kronor ($333 million) to Takilant Limited to obtain a 3G licence in Uzbekistan and a 26 percent stake in mobile carrier Ucell prompted the Swedish prosecution authority to launch a preliminary corruption probe into TeliaSonera’s licence acquisition deal in Uzbekistan.

Last April, TeliaSonera also came under fire following an SVT report that the company gave state security services access to systems it operates in several countries in the former Soviet Union in order to secure lucrative contracts.

In September, a Stockholm-based manager from TeliaSonera was at the centre of a corruption investigation for a scandal involving suspected bribes including expensive mobile phones, ice hockey matches, and sex club visits.

Following the DN report, however, the TeliaSonera board hinted that the start of the search had nothing to do with the scandals which have plagued the company in recent months.

“Lars Nyberg’s current contract expires in December 2013. To find a replacement for a CEO of one of Sweden’s largest corporations is a long process which the Board initiated before the current debate started,” said Anders Narvinger, Chairman of the Board of TeliaSonera in a statement.

TT/The Local/dl

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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.