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TeliaSonera CEO quits amid bribery scandal

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TeliaSonera CEO quits amid bribery scandal
11:19 CET+01:00
TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg announced on Friday he was stepping down from the Nordic telecom firm, which remains under fire over allegations of bribery stemming from its business dealings in Uzbekistan.

The news comes on the same day that law firm Mannheimer Swartling released the result of its investigation into the bribery and money laundering claims.

While the report, released on Friday morning, found no direct evidence that TeliaSonera paid bribes to establish operations in Uzbekistan, the report criticized the company for ignoring its own guidelines.

"I am greatly relieved that Mannheimer Swartling has not found anything to support the allegations that TeliaSonera committed bribery or participated in money laundering," Nyberg said in a statement announcing his decision to step down.

In commenting further on the report, Nyberg admitted that TeliaSonera hadn't handled its entry into the Uzbek market in an optimal fashion.

"Even if this transaction was legal, we should not have gone ahead without learning more about the identity of our counterparty. This is something I regret," he said.

Upon receiving the findings of the Mannheimer Swartling report, the board informed Nyberg there would be changes to the board's composition.

"I was informed that as a result of the pending changes to the board they were not prepared to express that support," he said.

"At that point I made up my mind that I would leave my position as chief executive and therefore I am resigning."

Allegations of bribery and money laundering at TeliaSonera emerged following a September 2012 report by Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news programme Uppdrag Granskning.

According to the SVT report, TeliaSonera in 2007 allegedly paid a bribe worth 2.2 billion kronor ($337 million) to Takilant for 3G mobile telephone licences and frequencies in Uzbekistan, as well as a 26-percent stake in the Uzbek company Ucell.

Shortly after the allegations came to light, Nyberg promised he would resign if the bribery allegations proved true.

While the report released Friday found no direct evidence that criminal acts had taken place, prosecutors continue a criminal probe into suspicions that TeliaSonera paid bribes to the company Takilant, which has ties to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in order to set up operations in the country.

Following Nyberg's resignation, TeliaSonera announced that CFO Per-Arne Blomquist would take over as acting President and CEO until a permanent replacement can be found.

The Local/dl

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