Jo Lunder, the former Telenor executive charged in the corruption case around Telenor’s partly owned mobile phone firm VimpelCom, was released from custody on Tuesday. He’d been freed by an Oslo court on Friday but remained in custody pending an appeal by prosecutors.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday evening that the prosecutors’ appeal was rejected. The appeals court (Borgarting lagmannsrett) apparently agreed with the lower court’s ruling that, even though there was some doubt, there was no firm reason to suspect Lunder of corruption.
Lunder was able to produce emails showing that he had halted VimpelCom’s payments to a company tied to the daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator. Investigators in four countries suspect the payments amounted to bribes in connection with VimpelCom’s expansion into Uzbekistan. Lunder, however, contended he had sought advice from an American auditor and was told there was no reason to stop the payments.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported earlier on Tuesday that investigators from Norway’s own white-collar crime unit Økokrim did not question Lunder on Monday. Since his arrest last Wednesday night, Lunder has only undergone four hours of questioning while in custody.
His release is a defeat for prosecutors and an important victory for Lunder, who has claimed he is cooperating fully with the investigation into VimpelCom.
Lunder’s defense attorney, Cato Schiøtz, claimed the prosecutors hadn’t “done their homework” and had greatly damaged Lunder’s reputation by arresting him and seeking to hold him in custody for at least two weeks. “But we’ll come back to that,” Schiøtz told NRK.
Prosecutors tied to Økokrim confirmed Lunder’s release from prison, indicating they would not appeal further to Norway’s Supreme Court. In a press release Tuesday evening, they wrote they would continue to investigate.