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TELIASONERA CORRUPTION PROBE

CORRUPTION

TeliaSonera CEO quits amid bribery scandal

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.

TeliaSonera CEO quits amid bribery scandal

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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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.