Last week a Swedish appellate court issued an opinion confirming the anticorruption community’s worst fear. The decision stems from a 2017 U.S. prosecution of Swedish telecommunications giant Telia for bribing the Uzbekistan president’s daughter. The evidence showed Telia’s then CEO and two other executives countenanced the bribery, and Swedish prosecutors promptly charged the three with bribing a foreign official. To the surprise and shock of both prosecutors and observers, all three were acquitted at a 2019 trial (here).
It was widely assumed the Stockholm Court of Appeals, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious appeals court, would reverse the trial court’s decision. Instead, in a February 4th opinion it affirmed it.
UPDATE. Chief prosecutor Kim Andrews termed the decision “offensive,” telling OCCRP in a statement that the decision means “Swedish companies can jump queues” by bribing, that Sweden “is failing to live up to its international obligations, . . . and that we leave it up to other European countries and the United States to clean up our mess.”
Former South African MP Andrew Feinstein once asked a senior Swedish official about foreign bribery. His reply:
“All bribes are illegal but if a Swedish company paid bribes in another country, I can’t say we would do anything about it.”
The Telia acquittal is the latest sign that this attitude continues to prevail. That the anticorruption community’s worst fear about Sweden is true. That to protect the export earnings of Swedish multinationals and to shield the Swedish elites who run them, the government will condone the bribery of foreign public officials no matter how egregious. Indeed, the first and still most appalling example of the lengths Sweden will go to derail a foreign bribery investigation was in a case that implicated its now prime minister.Continue reading