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Former Telia execs cleared of all bribery charges in Sweden

The case, which has lasted for years, involved bribes handed to the flamboyant daughter of the Uzbekistan president.

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Image: Kimmo Brandt / EPA

The former CEO of Telia, Lars Nyberg and two former executives at the company who were suspected of bribery crimes in Uzbekistan were cleared of all charges by Stockholm District Court in Sweden on Friday.

The three executives were suspected of having paid around 300 million euros in bribes to Uzbekistan's former dictator's daughter several years ago.

Until they were cleared, the three executives- including Eurasia region chief Tero Kivisaari and an executive lawyer - all faced the possibility of serving long prison terms.

Due to an old law on the books however, the bribery charges were dropped. The court found that the money was not handed to people who had direct influence over the telecoms sector.

The investigation, which started about six-and-a-half years ago, became Sweden's most expansive bribery probe of all time.

Among other matters, the extensive probe examined how personally involved each of the three former execs were in the company's bid to bribe its way into the Uzbek telecoms market. Among other things, after it entered the market, Telia secured licenses for 3G and 4G networks as well as phone numbers.

The prosecutor in the case claimed that the bribes were paid to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the country's then-dictator Islam Karimov. The prosecution claimed she had connections to influential people who helped Telia break into the market.

Old law helped

The defence, however, claimed that Karimova could not, according to Swedish law, be considered a person who could be bribed under these circumstances.

The general secretary of the non-profit Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute, Nathalie Pahlén, said the law that helped to free the executives from the charges is outdated.

"It is an old, bad law. I am not surprised," she told Sweden's national broadcaster SVT.

Karimova is reported to have been jailed or placed under house arrest in 2015 in Uzbekistan for involvement in the Telia affair.

Suspicions about the activities of Telia Sonera (as the company was called then) in Uzbekistan resulted in the departure of the firm's board in 2013.

The company withdrew its operations from Eurasia entirely in 2015.

The Finnish state owned a major share in Telia Sonera when the investigation and court case was put into motion, but its investment firm Solidium sold off the last of its shares in the company last year.

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