TeliaSonera CEO resigns over Uzbekistan graft claims

February 01, 2013 - 2:27:15 pm
STOCKHOLM: The head of Nordic telecommunications operator TeliaSonera said Friday he would step down after an external review ordered by the company directed "serious criticism" at shortcomings in the company's investment in Uzbekistan.
 
Chief executive Lars Nyberg said he was leaving the company even though the report found no evidence to support claims that the company bribed a woman with ties to the Uzbekistan government to obtain a 3G licence in 2007.
 
Nyberg said he was relieved that the investigation, carried out by law firm Mannheimer Swartling, had not found "anything to support the allegations that TeliaSonera committed bribery or participated in money laundering."
 
But the probe directed "serious criticism" at what it called shortcomings in the investment process and said not enough had been done to investigate TeliaSonera's local partner in the country.
 
"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," Nyberg said in a statement.
 
TeliaSonera launched the investigation in October last year following a Swedish television programme on its operations in Uzbekistan. The inquiry was later expanded to include more recent investments.
 
A corruption probe by the Swedish prosecution authority into the Uzbek deal was launched in September and is still ongoing. The company has said it believes it may take up to two years.
 
"Mannheimer Swartling says that the internal controls were not sufficient to ensure that (TeliaSonera) did not risk becoming involved in any unethical business, and that thereby the company's internal ethical guidelines were not followed completely," the company said on Friday.
 
"In hindsight, it is evident that a more stringent investigation of the counterparties should have been conducted."
 
The law firm also made "the natural observation that the suspicions of crime expressed by the Swedish Prosecution Authority cannot be dismissed by this investigation," it added.
 
Following Nyberg's departure, TeliaSonera said Per-Arne Blomquist would be appointed acting president and chief executive of the company. (AFP)
 
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