This past January, Transparency International released the latest version of its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). And once again, Sweden’s score was among the best in the world (tied for third place with Finland, Switzerland, and Singapore). Sweden’s position near the top of this and other international integrity and good governance indexes may create the impression that Sweden is a corruption-free country. But this is misleading. To be sure, Sweden is free from the daily petty corruption that burdens so many citizens throughout the developing world. But high-level corruption and associated financial crimes are alive and well in Sweden — and often the perpetrators escape meaningful accountability. Consider just a few recent high-profile examples:Continue reading
A Stockholm District Court’s acquittal of three former executives of Swedish telecom giant Telia of bribery shocked the global anticorruption community and has smirched Sweden’s reputation as a clean government champion (original decision; English translation). Despite overwhelming evidence, the court refused to find the three guilty of paying Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the then president Uzbekistan, over $300 million in bribes for the right to operate in the country.
E-mails showed defendants directed the money to a Karimova shell company, hid their dealings with her from Telia’s board, and knew paying her violated American antibribery law. (Telia subsidiary’s Statement of Facts in the U.S. prosecution.) Though defendants argued Karimova had no official role in telecom licensing, the evidence showed her father had given her de facto control of the telecom licensing agency. Perhaps most damning, the court had the sworn statement Telia made in settling the FCPA case arising from the bribery. It there admitted “Executive A . . . a high-ranking executive of Telia who had authority over Telia’s Eurasian Business Area” and “certain Telia executives” had been the principals behind the bribery scheme (Statement of Facts, ¶s 12, 17, 19, 26, 30, and 34).
The court defended its acquittal of Tero Kivisaari, apparently Telia “Executive A,” Lars Nyberg, CEO when the bribes were paid, and the lawyer who counseled them on two grounds. One, the prosecutor had not provided “hard evidence” of bribery, and two, even if he had, the law then in effect did not reach defendants’ conduct.
Google’s translation of the decision is rough (mutanklagelser, Swedish for bribery, is rendered as “manslaughter”) but not too rough to see through the court’s skewed findings of fact and flimsy legal reasoning. Continue reading