In what U.S. prosecutors are calling “one of the largest criminal corporate bribery and corruption resolutions ever,” the Swedish telecom firm Telia Co. AB on Thursday agreed to enter a nearly billion dollar global settlement to resolve charges involving bribes in Uzbekistan.
“Telia, whose securities traded publicly in New York, corruptly built a lucrative telecommunications business in Uzbekistan, using bribe payments wired around the world through accounts here in New York City,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York in a statement. “If your securities trade on our exchanges and you use our banks to move ill-gotten money, then you have to abide by our country’s laws.”
Telia, which could not immediately be reached for comment, agreed not to dispute the Justice Department’s statement of facts. The company issued a press release saying, “Today’s settlement brings an end to an unfortunate chapter in Telia Co.’s history. Since 2013, the new board and management have worked diligently and responsibly to understand what went wrong, to remedy what has been broken and to regain trust from all our stakeholders.”
Among other management changes during the investigation, Telia hired a new group general counsel, Jonas Bengtsson, in 2013. Bengtsson has over 15 years of experience as a lawyer with telecoms. The company said it would hold a press conference on Friday that would include Bengtsson, the CEO and the chair of the board of directors.
The $965.7 million deal was coordinated among the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Netherlands. Telia agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $274.6 million to the United States, plus over $457 million in disgorgement, with about $200 million of that going to the SEC.
According to the DOJ, the company and its subsidiary paid about $331 million in bribes to an Uzbekistan government official between 2007 and 2010 so that Telia could enter the Uzbek market and receive other favorable treatment.
The company agreed to enter a three-year deferred prosecution agreement that charges Telia with conspiracy to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The subsidiary, Coscom, pleaded guilty Thursday to the same count.
The deferred prosecution agreement was signed by Bengtsson, along with Telia outside counsel David Stuart and Rachel Skaistis, both of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and Angela Burgess of Davis Polk & Wardwell.
The DOJ said the company received “significant credit” for undertaking extensive remedial measures and cooperating with its investigation, which is still ongoing into individuals involved in the case. The Stockholm-based company has said the Swedish investigation also remains in progress.