Two TeliaSonera bosses suspected of bribery

Nordic telecom firm TeliaSonera confirmed on Wednesday that two senior staff members are under criminal investigation for bribery following September’s revelations of the details surrounding its licensing deal in Uzbekistan.

Two TeliaSonera bosses suspected of bribery

Sveriges Television (SVT) current affairs programme Uppdrag Granskning reported on Wednesday that the two TeliaSonera managers are under investigation for having paid off the daughter of the Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Gulnara Karimova, in order to establish the company in the central Asian country.

“I can confirm that my client is suspected of crime,” lawyer Hans Strandberg told SVT, adding that his client denies the allegations.

TeliaSonera also denied that the senior managers were involved in any foul play.

Since September, when news of the Uzbek deal first hit Swedish media, the telecom firm has been under the microscope, but has strongly denied the allegations.

“Telia Sonera bribed no one. TeliaSonera did not take part in any money laundering,” the company CEO Lars Nyberg at the time told the TT news agency.

However, prosecutor Berndt Berger told the court otherwise in a hearing last Friday.

“The event was partly planned in Sweden, decisions were made in Sweden, and the money was paid out from TeliaSonera’s accounts in Sweden,” he told the court, according to SVT.

“There is reasonable suspicion of bribery. The report is comprehensive and yet only in its initial stage. This will take a long time.”

Following the September revelations, the Telia CEO announced that he would be stepping down from his post earlier than planned, although the company said Nyberg’s departure had nothing to do with the Uzbek deals.

TT/The Local/og

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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.