Court acquits former Telia CEO Nyberg on Uzbekistan corruption charges

Karimova Uzbekistan.jpg

A Stockholm court has cleared Lars Nyberg, the former CEO of Telia, and two other former senior executives of corruption changes.

Telia has already accepted the charges – and in 2017 it paid a penalty of almost $1 billion for paying bribes of $330 million to a relative of the then president of Uzbekistan a decade ago.

But that was the get-out for Nyberg, plus former lawyer Olli Tuohimaa and Tero Kivisaari, who had headed Telia’s Eurasian operations. The bribe went to Gulnara Karimova (pictured during an appearance at the World Economic Forum in 2009; Wikimedia Commons), the daughter of Islam Karimov, then president of Uzbekistan.

But Karimova did not hold any official role with the government, said the court, acquitting the three former executives.

A friend of Karimova had the great good fortune to have one of Uzbekistan’s mobile licences in the name of Talikant, a company registered in Gibraltar, and TeliaSonera, as the company then was, paid Karimova to take it over.

After the Telia corruption was discovered – first, thanks to a Swedish TV programme in September 2012 – Nyberg and a number of other senior executives resigned or were fired.

Karimova collected a total of $1 billion in bribes from telecoms operators in Uzbekistan, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP): also included were Norway’s Telenor, which owned a stake in VimpelCom, now Veon, and Russia’s MTS. Telenor paid a fine close to $800 million, VimpelCom paid $835 million, and MTS left the country.

Telenor and Telia both sold off their investments in Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries after the scandals.

Islam Karimov died in September 2016; his daughter was put under house arrest and is in custody in Uzbekistan after being convicted of a number of charges.

Telia’s chair, Marie Ehrling, said: “Even if Telia Company has not been part of the criminal proceedings involving three former Telia employees, it has of course affected the company.”

She added: “The entry into Uzbekistan which began in 2007 has had very serious consequences for Telia Company and for individuals alike. The company took its responsibility when it entered into a global resolution in September 2017, for actions which had violated US and Dutch legislations.”

Nyberg describes himself on LinkedIn as a “TeliaSonera pensioner” and Tuohimaa is an adviser in the UAE.