updated 6/1/2006 8:20:35 AM ET 2006-06-01T12:20:35

The chief executive of TeliaSonera, the Swedish telecoms company, is to be charged with bribery after inviting clients to see the musical Mamma Mia, which features the music of Abba, the 1970s Swedish pop group.

Anders Igel will be charged alongside Marie Ehrling, the head of the company's operations in Sweden, after prosecutors decided that listening to Abba songs would have constituted "an unwarrantable reward for the recipients in the official discharge of their duties".

The clients had been invited to a product demonstration in conjunction with a performance of the musical.

However, the event was canceled after it emerged prosecutors had initiated an investigation.

The charges highlight the growing sensitivity surrounding corporate entertainment — an issue that has snared some high profile and unexpected victims in the past for allegedly breaching ethical standards.

One of the most significant was Ernst Welteke, who resigned in 2004 as the president of Germany's Bundesbank after it emerged he had let a commercial bank pay a hotel bill.

Fears that executives might unwittingly suffer the same fate also contributed to a decision by Fifa, football's governing body, to cancel room nights it had reserved in hotels for this summer's World Cup.

The decision was attributed, in part, to an unwillingness by executives to accept corporate hospitality tickets in case they were accused of accepting inappropriate gifts.

TeliaSonera responded with surprise to news of the charges yesterday.

Tom von Weymarn, chairman, said: "Customer events of [this kind] are a normal occurrence in any market and ... I am amazed the Director of Public Prosecutions has not decided to terminate his preliminary investigation."

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.


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