TeliaSonera, a story beyond good and evil

TeliaSonera, a story beyond good and evil

In Eurasia, every country in the region is all growing fast and very steadily.

However, doing business in these countries is not easy. Democracy and accountability are gaining ground, but there are still some issues, and they are taking their toll on the biggest companies of Europe.

TeliaSonera is a living testament to the fact that doing business in the Eurasian countries is both profitable and treacherous.

For the second consecutive year, TeliaSonera is the most valuable brand on the OMX Helsinki stock exchange (8.499 billion euros). This fact doesn’t save it from being probed by the Swedish government on alleged bribery charges.

That’s why the company did the best thing it could have done. TeliaSonera has assigned Mannheimer Swartling, one of Sweden’s most respected law firms, to review its investment in Uzbekistan in 2007. At the same time, the board has appointed Sweden’s former ambassador to Russia, Tomas Bertelman, as a strategic advisor on matters related to the company’s operations in Central Asia.

Mannheimer Swartling have been asked by TeliaSonera to investigate whether TeliaSonera’s investment in a 3G-license, frequencies and number series in Uzbekistan in 2007 involved any form of corruption or money laundering. The review will be led by Biörn Riese, Mannheimer Swartling’s managing partner.

Mr. Riese will report to TeliaSonera’s board of directors and the results of the external review will be made public.

“It is good that the review is now under way. The board has great confidence in Mannheimer Swartling and Biörn Riese, who possess all the prerequisites to carry out an independent legal assessment of the transaction with Takilant Ltd.,” says Anders Narvinger, chairman of TeliaSonera.

“The allegations directed at TeliaSonera are very serious and therefore it is important that an independent party now reviews the transaction and truly gets to the bottom of all allegations and rumors which have flourished in recent weeks. At the same time, we will of course on all fronts cooperate with the police in its investigation, so that no questions remain as to whether we paid bribes or participated in money laundering,” says Lars Nyberg, president and CEO of TeliaSonera. The board of TeliaSonera also declared that it has full confidence in Nyberg.

In his book “Beyond Good and Evil,” Friedrich Nietzsche says that “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” Did TeliaSonera manage to preserve its values while fighting the monsters or did it turn into one thinking that it is the nature of doing business in Eurasia? I hope that they are going to be proven innocent as I think we all need a good example showing all of us that doing business in Eurasia can be done successfully without handing out bribes.