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Three Ex-Telia Executives Acquitted In Uzbek Bribery Case

Lars Nyberg (left) with his lawyer at a Stockholm court (file photo)

STOCKHOLM -- Three former executives of telecom giant Telia have been acquitted in Sweden in a high-profile bribery case involving the eldest daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Former chief executive Lars Nyberg and two other defendants went on trial in September on suspicion of paying $350 million to Gulnara Karimova in return for a mobile-phone license in Uzbekistan for their company, which was then called TeliaSonera.

The Stockholm District Court acquitted the trio on February 15.

According to the court's decision, the text of which RFE/RL's Uzbek service obtained, the trio was found not guilty as it has not been proven that Karimova held any official position connected to the telecom sector, which has been the prosecutor's main argument.

Nyberg along with Telia's former adviser for Eurasia, Olli Tuohimaa, and the company's former deputy chief, Tero Kivisaari, were charged in 2017 after the Stockholm-based company agreed to pay nearly $1 billion in penalties to help settle the years-long corruption probe.

Telia is not the only international telecom company that has been accused of bribing Uzbek officials.

In February 2017, Dutch-based VimpelCom, which is controlled by a Russian-owned holding company, agreed to pay $795 million to resolve U.S. and Dutch bribery charges.

Karimova, 46, was once a high-profile socialite, fashion designer, pop singer, and ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva who was seen as a potential successor to her father, who ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist for 25 years. Karimov died in 2016.

But she vanished from sight as she found herself at the center of a financial-crimes probe in Uzbekistan in which many of her associates have been jailed.

The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office said last year that Karimova was sentenced to five years of "restricted freedom" in 2015 after she and several associates were convicted of crimes, including extortion, embezzlement, and tax evasion.

Karimova has additionally been charged with several other crimes, including financial misdeeds, forgery, and money laundering, a statement said.

Multiple previous reports have indicated she has been under house arrest since 2014.