LONDON: Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson put contractors’ lives in danger when it insisted they continue working in Daesh-controlled territory in Iraq, according to leaked documents seen by the BBC.
Contractors were kidnapped due to Ericsson’s insistence that they continue to work, the BBC reported.
In leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of International Journalists and shared with 30 media partners, it was revealed that senior staff refused to shut down the Ericsson’s Mosul operations when Daesh seized the city in 2014.
Despite a lawyer’s recommendations that they cease activity, senior company managers said they felt such an action was “premature” and would “destroy” Ericsson’s business in Iraq, according to the documents. A number of those workers were later kidnapped by Daesh.
Last week, CEO Borje Ekholm admitted, in response to the leak, that Ericsson may have paid off Daesh to allow the company to continue operating in areas run by the terror group.
The company admitted to “serious breaches of compliance rules” and its code of business ethics regarding Ericsson employees, vendors and suppliers in Iraq between 2011 and 2019.
The news immediately wiped 12 percent off Ericsson’s share price, which has dropped nearly 20 percent in the past month.
According to the leaked documents, one man, Affan, was among a group of engineers carrying out fieldwork for Ericsson when Daesh took Mosul.
He was sent with a letter on behalf of the company seeking permission from Daesh for them to continue working there.
But as soon as they arrived, they were met by a pickup truck full of gunmen who seized them, he told German public broadcaster NDR.
Then a Daesh fighter used his phone to call Ericsson managers and demanded that the company pay $2.4 million to work in the area, Affan said.
“He (the Daesh member) said that if you (Ericsson) do not pay, this person you sent and everyone else who works for you will be hunted down by us, we will bring them here. One by one.”
Affan was placed under house arrest and said an Ericsson manager then stopped answering his calls, adding: “He abandoned me, he turned off the phone and disappeared.”
Affan was released after a month and maintains he was abandoned by Ericsson, but the leak said one of the company’s partners “made arrangements” with Daesh to secure his release and let the company continue its work in Mosul.
In other interactions with the terror group, Ericsson’s transport contractor used a fast route to transit Daesh-controlled territory in Iraq to avoid government checkpoints. Bribes to militants were likely paid along the way.
A senior government telecoms official in Mosul, who chose not to be named for fear of losing his job, told one of ICIJ’s media partners: “Ericsson knew well what was going on. There is not a sane person who would deal directly with IS (Daesh), they all do it through the subcontractors.
“Militants would take a percentage from every cent paid in Mosul on any project or work. This is how (Daesh) accumulated millions.”
In 2019, Ericsson reached a $1 billion settlement with US authorities following allegations of widespread corruption in five countries.
Ericsson has not revealed whether the new revelations were disclosed to the US Department of Justice at the time of the settlement.