UPDATE 2-Swedish court acquits former Telia CEO in Uzbekistan bribery probe

(Adds comments from prosecutor, Nyberg’s lawyer, Telia)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A Swedish district court on Friday acquitted Lars Nyberg, former chief executive of telecoms operator Telia Company, of charges of bribery in connection with the company’s entry in Uzbekistan.

The charges filed in 2017 against Nyberg and two other former Telia executives concern alleged bribery during 2007–2010 of an Uzbek local partner in connection with the company’s establishment in the country. Nyberg and the other accused denied the charges.

Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler told news agency TT that a possible appeal would be decided at a later stage.

The Stockholm district court said there had been transactions to Takilant Ltd, a company it had found had links to former Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s daughter Gulnara Karimova.

But it had not been proved that Karimova, the alleged recipient of the bribes, was included in the group of persons who could be held liable for taking bribes, it said.

“The district court has therefore acquitted the defendants from all charges”.

“I was very happy and relieved and at the same time it was what we expected,” Nyberg’s lawyer Cristina Bergner told Reuters.

Telia has previously agreed to pay $966 million to settle U.S. and European charges related to the case, covering the corporate liability of Telia in the corruption investigation, but not the individual liability of the former executives.

Telia said in 2015 it would exit central Asian markets and refocus on growing its core Nordic operations after being hit for years by investigations into alleged corruption linked to local partners and problems accessing cash in distant countries.

Telia has nearly completed its exit from those markets, with only its business in Moldova left to sell.

Nyberg and the other defendants left Telia in 2013.

“I hope that today’s ruling will bring an end to a painful and costly chapter in Telia Company’s history,” said Telia’s board chair Marie Ehrling.

Reporting by Olof Swahnberg and Helena Soderpalm, Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Louise Heavens