Sigve Brekke, who took up the chief executive position this August, told the newspaper that he had discovered documents concerning the company’s chairman Svein Aaser while working on the sale process of Telenor’s share in Vimpelcom, the scandal-hit Russian telecoms operator.
“I saw some matters that I found it appropriate to inform the board about,” Brekker said. “This was information that the board believed was so important that they wanted to take it to the Minister of Industry,” Brekke said.
US and Dutch authorities have accused VimpelCom, in which Telenor has a 33 percent interest, of paying bribes between 2007 and 2011 to obtain business in Uzbekistan.
Swedish prosecutors have put the suspected payments at $55 million, but Telenor in February published a copy of an anonymous email passed to Norway’s trade ministry which argued that Vimpelcom could have paid closer to $300m.
In January Aaser and the company’s previous chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas told a parliamentary hearing in Norway that Telenor had not found any proof of corruption in Uzbekistan.
On Sunday Brekke said Telenor had hired a Norwegian law firm to carry out an investigation of Telenor’s role in Vimpelcom since it bought its stake in 2005.
“In Telenor, there should be absolutely zero tolerance for corruption,” Brekke said in a press conference on Sunday. “We will be an open company and I want us to leave no stone unturned to bring clarity to our involvement in Vimpelcom, which is being investigated in connection with possible illegal money transfers to Uzbekistan.”
Brekke said that having zero tolerance for corruption would not stop Telenor operating internationally.
“Everybody in the world should know that Telenor fights against corruption at all levels. It will be our competitive advantage,” he said.