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Swedish Prosecutors Charge Three Former Telia Execs In Uzbek Probe

Former Telia chief executive Lars Nyberg (pictured) and and two other codefendants have been hit with graft chrages by Swedish authorities. (file photo)
Former Telia chief executive Lars Nyberg (pictured) and and two other codefendants have been hit with graft chrages by Swedish authorities. (file photo)

Swedish prosecutors have charged three former executives from theTelia Company with corruption a day after the telecom giant agreed to pay nearly $1 billion in penalties to help settle a years-long corruption probe involving bribes paid in Uzbekistan.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said on September 22 that former chief executive Lars Nyberg and two other codefendants are suspected of paying large sums of money to Takilant, a Gibraltar-based company associated with Gulnara Karimova, one of the daughters of Uzbekistan's late authoritarian leader, in return for a mobile-phone license.

The payments indicate Telia effectively paid "a downright bribe" to ensure it received the license from Uzbek authorities, Chief Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler said.

Karimova "had complete control of the mobile-phone market," he added.

All three defendants deny the charges.

The settlement, detailed in court papers filed on September 21 at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, was the latest chapter in a long-running saga that involves multiple international companies and Karimov's daughter.

The payments include nearly $550 million in criminal penalties -- with about half going to the United States and the remainder going to the Netherlands.

Parallel Case

Telia, which used to be known as TeliaSonera, also agreed to settle a parallel civil case with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, under which it will pay nearly $460 million in disgorgement of profits and interest.

Disgorgement is a remedy in securities cases aimed at discouraging future legal violations and depriving a party of ill-gotten gains.

According to the court filings by prosecutors from the U.S. Southern District of New York, Telia will enter a so-called deferred prosecution agreement under which one of its units, known as Coscom, will admit to violations under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act.

The Stockholm-based Telia is not the only international telecom company that has been ensnared in allegations over bribery in Uzbekistan.

In February, Dutch-based VimpelCom, which is controlled by a Russian-owned holding company, agreed to paid $795 million to resolve U.S. and Dutch charges.

No trial date has been set for the three executives, according to the Stockholm district court.

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