Another investigation into Ericsson bribes closed

The public prosecutor’s office has closed yet another corruption investigation against former employees of the telecom manufacturer Ericsson – this time regarding suspected bribes and disloyalty to the principal in China. Chamber prosecutor Leif Görts wants to see stricter legislation to tackle corruption.

Of four major corruption investigations against Ericsson, prosecutor Leif Görts has now closed three. He has lost the fourth case in the district court – a judgment that has been appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal.

One conclusion Görts draws from how things have gone is that Swedish legislation makes it unnecessarily complicated to access accounting fraud. He also thinks that there are too many formal obstacles in Swedish law to access crimes committed in other countries, by local employees in subsidiaries of Swedish multinational companies.

– I am struck by the Swedish inability to punish inaccuracies in the accounting and deficiencies in the internal control, where I think you need to change the legislation, he says.

“Playing more simple hockey”

He compares it to similar legal processes in the United States, where it is much easier for prosecutors to get someone convicted of accounting fraud.

– They play a little more simple hockey than we do, so to speak. And I think there are probably reasons for the legislator to take an investigative initiative there. Partly in the matter of accounting responsibility, but also the question of jurisdiction, says Görts.

The investigation into suspected Ericsson bribes in China, which has now been closed, concerned payments of hundreds of millions of kroner by former Ericsson employees during the period 2013-2016 in China. Five people, three of whom were in senior positions when the payments were made, were the focus of the suspicions, according to Leif Görts.

But it was not possible to provide evidence that those who received the money belonged to the corruptible circle, according to Görts.

– We have not been able to clarify who the recipients are of large amounts that have been paid over the years in China, from Ericsson. Therefore, we do not know whether it is people who belong to the circle who are bribeable, he says.

Ericsson has, however, admitted in a settlement with authorities in the USA that the accounting and bookkeeping of the payments in China do not show what the payments are about.

– It is not reported properly in the accounting and therefore we do not know what it is that Ericsson has paid for, says Görts.

Contrary to directives

According to the prosecutor, Ericsson and the company’s management at the time cooperated during the investigation, and from the prosecutor’s side, they have mainly focused on convicting those suspected of infidelity against the principal, i.e. Ericsson.

– The suspicion was then that people within the Asian part of Ericsson had, in violation of given directives, continued to pay money to people in China even though it was not possible to see what they were paying for, says Leif Görts.

But this track could not be brought to port either.

– We cannot see that this behavior has damaged the company in the sense referred to in the criminal code’s provisions on faithlessness towards the principal, says Görts.

The prosecutor has recently closed two other preliminary investigations into suspected bribery crimes committed by Ericsson employees, then in Iraq and Kuwait. A fourth investigation into suspected bribery offenses in Djibouti led to charges last May, but the suspects were acquitted by the district court.

The prosecutor has appealed this judgment and expects that the case can be taken up in the Svea Court of Appeal towards the end of 2023.


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