The Ericsson List investigation is based on leaked internal Ericsson compliance reports that identify a culture of corruption and graft in Iraq from 2011 to 2019. The name of the investigation refers to a spreadsheet, included in the records, that describes internal probes into alleged corrupt practices around the globe.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is not releasing the leaked documents in full. We will publish only excerpts from the documents for source-protection  and to safeguard the innocent. In excerpts, we name only people and companies that have been contacted for comment.

The internal review examined evidence of bribery and corruption through the lens of Ericsson’s internal “code of conduct.” Throughout the documents, the review identifies “breaches” of that code.

Here are nine notable cases described by internal investigators in the leaked files ranging from cash payments to militant groups to gifts and travel costs for high ranking officials:

1. The “Speedway”

Amount: $171,000

Date: 2016-2017

Who got paid: militant groups, potentially ISIS

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Facilitation payments – Bribes and Kickbacks; Compliance with Laws, Rules, and Regulations – Trade compliance

What the payment was for: Safe passage for trucks carrying Ericsson equipment through ISIS areas. The route, nicknamed the “Speedway,” avoided Iraqi customs. An Ericsson contractor arranged the payments, which were in cash, according to the internal review.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • SLS: Soran Othman, SLS’s chief operating officer, said that Ericsson contacted his company as part of its internal investigation and “concluded that there was no wrongdoing or criminal acts perpetrated by SLS for the contractual period under investigation.”
  • Cargo Iraq: Bahez Abbas, the owner of Cargo Iraq denied paying ISIS.
  • Asiacell didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

2. “Slush fund” for personal use by a former Ericsson employee

Amount: $308,000

Date: 2016-2018

Who got paid: Roger Antoun, a former Ericsson employee

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Facilitation payments; Compliance with Laws, Rules, and Regulations

What the money was for: Embezzled by Roger Antoun, a former Ericsson employee, from funds intended for an Ericsson supplier in Iraq. Ericsson launched an investigation into payments made by its Iraqi employees after it discovered Antoun’s slush fund. Antoun returned the money to Ericsson.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • Roger Antoun declined to comment.

3. Payment disguised as a donation to a foundation

Amount: $50,000

Date: August 12th, 2014

Who got paid: An Ericsson employee asked that the company make a $50,000 “donation” to Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces “for fighting ISIS,” the report says. The militia was led by Sirwan Barzani, also a major shareholder of Ericsson customer Korek and board chairman at the time. The official request indicated that the donation was to benefit refugees and displaced children in KurdistanThe payment was routed through a charitable foundation. Internal investigators couldn’t determine the final beneficiary.

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Bribes and Kickbacks

What the payment was for: Ericsson executives approved the payment to “get mileage” from Barzani, who was also chairman of the board of Korek, an Iraqi telecom services provider, according to the review.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • Rafiah Ibrahim didn’t respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.
  • A spokesperson for Sirwan Barzani declined to answer ICIJ’s questions and said: “Sirwan Barzani is a renowned Peshmerga General who continues to fight Daesh alongside US and Coalition forces.”

4. Payments disguised as “security services” used to curry favor

Amount: $500,000

Date: Unknown

Who got paid: Intended for the CEO of Asiacell, a telecom services provider, but “ultimate beneficiary” unclear.

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Bribes and Kickbacks; Compliance with Laws, Rules, and Regulations

What the payments were for:  “Security services” in connection with the Peroza Project, which involved assembling, testing and storing telecom equipment needed for a network upgrade. The funds were intended for the CEO of Asiacell as a “commission payment”, the review found.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.
Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • Tarek Saadi declined to comment during a brief telephone call with ICIJ partner Daraj Media.
  • Al Awsat’s Jawhar Surchi told ICIJ partner The Washington Post that he denied winning contracts through bribery or engaging in any sort of corruption and said he never saw Ericsson do so. Of the payment going to the Asiacell CEO, Surchi said: “this is a completely false accusation.”
  • Asiacell didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

5. Manipulating supplier selection process and dodging trade restrictions

Amount: $10.5 million

Date: 2012-2017

Who got paid: Intended for Alawsatiya, sister company to Al-Awsat, both Ericsson contractors, but ultimate beneficiary unclear

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Fraud & Embezzlement; Money laundering

What the payment was for: Alawsatiya, sister company to Al-Awsat, was paid $10.5 million by Ericsson, including for the “Cell on Wheels” Ministry of Defense contract. Ericsson approved Alawsatiya as a contractor following a bidding process manipulated in Alawsatiya’s favor by local Ericsson employees.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.
Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • Al Awsat’s Jawhar Surchi told ICIJ partner The Washington Post that he denied winning contracts through bribery or engaging in any sort of corruption and said he never saw Ericsson do so. Surchi described Alawsatiya as a “secondary contractor” that functioned as an extension of Al-Awsat.
  • The Iraqi Ministry of Defense didn’t respond to a request for comment.

6. Parties and dinners funded by a scrapping scheme for decommissioned equipment

Amount: $188,000

Date: 2014-2017

Who got paid: Ericsson employees, contractors

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Bribes and Kickbacks; Compliance with Laws, Rules, and Regulations – Accounting and financial reporting

What the money was for: Ericsson employees created a slush fund using unrecorded cash from a “scrapping scheme” — the sale of decommissioned equipment — to pay for  hotels, dinners, bonuses for contractors, parties and personal expenses.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson and Asiacell didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

7. All-expense paid trip to Sweden for Lebanon’s telecom minister and his wife

Amount: $40,000-$50,000

Date: January 2015

Who got paid: Lebanon’s telecommunications minister, his wife and advisors

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities – Bribes and Kickbacks – Gifts and entertainment – Public officials

What the money was for: Ericsson invited Lebanon’s minister of telecommunications to Sweden, along with his wife and advisors. The trip included first-class plane tickets and limousines for sightseeing.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.
Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • The Lebanese Minister of telecom at the time, Boutros Harb, told ICIJ partner the BBC that the “flight tickets, transportation and accommodation expenses were at the charge of Ericsson” but denied that “gifts nor benefits” were received.

8. ‘Business intelligence’ consultant with no clear role

Amount: $1.2 million

Date: 2007-2017

Who got paid: Rasech Barzani, a consultant

Potential code of conduct breaches: Corruption and Financial Irregularities; Public officials

What the money was for: Ericsson paid Rasech Barzani, a consultant “with no clear role” related to the influential Kurdish Barzani family. The contracts only indicated that he provided “business intelligence and facilitation to the chairman of Korek”, Sirwan Barzani.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson and Rasech Barzani didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • Tarek Saadi declined to comment during a brief telephone call with ICIJ partner Daraj Media.
  • A spokesperson for Sirwan Barzani declined to answer ICIJ’s questions and said: “Sirwan Barzani is a renowned Peshmerga General who continues to fight Daesh alongside US and Coalition forces.”

9. Customer gifts and European trip for government officials

Amount: $97,800

Date: October 21st – November 3rd 2014

Who got paid: Ministry of Defense representatives

Potential code of conduct breaches: breach of the Ericsson Anti-Corruption Group Directive

What the money was for: Trip to Spain and Sweden for employees of Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, including gifts and entertainment, before a contract was signed.

What the report says:

Excerpt from the leaked Ericsson report.

What Ericsson and others say:

  • Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
  • The Iraqi Ministry of Defense didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Do you have a story about corruption, fraud, or abuse of power?

ICIJ accepts information about wrongdoing by corporate, government or public services around the world. We do our utmost to guarantee the confidentiality of our sources.

About the Ericsson List data

The Ericsson List investigation began with a leak of internal reports from the Swedish telecommunications company. ICIJ and its partners verified the records’ authenticity and spent months examining other documents and interviewing ex-employees, government officials, contractors and industry insiders in Iraq, London, Washington, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere. ICIJ’s data team reviewed all the leaked documents to consolidate details of payments made by Ericsson and what constituted a breach of its own code of conduct to complement this on-the-ground reporting.

The largest leaked report — prepared by Ericsson with the assistance of a U.S. law firm — is a summary of the accounts of 28 witnesses, 22.5 million emails and 4 terabytes of documents, and covers the years 2011 to 2019. The investigators captured and copied company computers and mobile phones.

The internal report details tens of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions, including bribery, payoffs to customers and gifts to government officials from 2011 to 2019.

ICIJ also reviewed two documents that detailed payments made in Lebanon and in Portugal, which took place as recently as 2020.

Ericsson didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

In addition to combing through and extracting information from the leaked documents, ICIJ also reviewed information about additional payments mentioned in court records, including the Department of Justice’s 2019 plea agreement with Ericsson. Those were treated separately and were used as part of the reporting process and to display where payments made by Ericsson were linked to allegations of misconduct.

The leaked reports in which the payments data appears collate interviews with current and former Ericsson employees and contractors, and findings from internal investigations. The report about alleged misconduct in Iraq contains inconsistencies in terms of dates, people and companies involved, final beneficiaries, and sometimes who was involved in the payments chain. This can potentially create duplicates and make it difficult to know what information to display. Employees or former employees interviewed by the report’s authors sometimes appear to contradict each other. Finally, some payments were made by companies (contractors, suppliers) Ericsson worked with, and it’s unclear whether Ericsson takes responsibility for those payments.

ICIJ scrutinized potential duplicates and contradictions in the data, and, for the above examples of payments, focused on cases that had been classified in the documents with potential code of conduct breaches (as defined by Ericsson) including corruption and embezzlement. ICIJ contacted for comment all the people and companies mentioned in these payments.

Contributors: Hamish Boland-Rudder, Emilia Díaz-Struck