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Friday, November 23, 2007

Ericsson suspected of bribing Oman politician: report

STOCKHOLM, Nov 21, 2007 (AFP), the world's leading mobile networks maker, allegedly paid more than a million dollars (euros) to a former Oman government minister in what appears to have been a bribe for a large contract, Swedish public radio reported Wednesday.

It paid 12 million kronor (1.3 million euros, 1.9 million dollars) into the Swiss bank account of Oman's former telecommunications minister, Ahmed Suwaidan Al Balushi, in the late 1990s, apparently as compensation for winning a 300-million-kronor contract in the country, Swedish Radio said.

"This seems very strange ... That the company paid some government minister through an agent probably means in this case that it was a bribe," Oerjan Berner at anti-corruption group Transparency International told the radio station.

Swedish Radio posted bank documents and memos detailing the transaction, made public during a tax probe of the company, on its website.

Ericson in one memo listed go-between agent Peter Sullivan and his company Middle East Services as the beneficiaries of the commission payment for the contract it had received from Oman's telecommunications authorities to expand the mobile network in the capital Muscat, according to the radio.

The bank documents however reveal that Al Balushi, who was Oman's telecommunications minister until 2000, was the owner of the account into which the money was paid, the radio alleged.

The news came as the Swedish telecom giant was reeling after its shares plummeted more than 11 percent Tuesday following a new profit warning from chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg.

In early trading Wednesday, Ericson's stock price continued to tumble, slipping more than 4.0 percent to just 15.32 kronor a share.

Ericsson could not immediately be reached for comment on the bribery accusations.

From: on 23 November 2007

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