• Tuesday, Jun 02, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:11 pm

Government relents, now goes for talks to settle dispute with Grameenphone

  • Published at 04:58 pm September 18th, 2019

Earlier, the government took a hard-line stance against the duo to collect a total of Tk13,446 crore in fees and taxes

The government has finally backtracked on its hard stance of realizing its dues from the country's largest mobile phone company Grameenphone as the finance minister on Wednesday said the matter would be resolved through discussion, not action.

"We don’t have any hostility against GP as they are doing business in the country for a long time. After the BTRC made its claim, some misunderstanding was created, which will be resolved through discussion, not through action," AHM Mostafa Kamal told reporters after a meeting with the stakeholders in the secretariat.

GP Chief Executive Officer Michel Foley, Post and Telecommunication Minister Mostafa Jabbar, National Board of Revenue Chairman MD Mosharraf Hossain Bhuyan, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Chairman MD Jahurul Haque were present in the meeting among others.

Kamal said the BTRC actions against GP and the repercussion of the company following that would come to an end now.

"The GP would withdraw the case and we will also not go for any further legal action. Today we have all agreed that discussion will bring the best outcome for all of us. Legal process will be lengthy and costly for all the parties," he said.

Replying to a question, the finance minister said: "We cannot say as yet if the claim amount will be reduced or not. But I can assure that the matter will be solved within two to three weeks."

GP CEO said that their company always wanted to resolve the matter through discussion and arbitration. 

"We are very happy that after finance minister’s intervention in the last 48 hours, things have changed for the good. Now we are at point from where we can start a transparent discussion. I believe the matter will be resolved quickly," said Foley.

Mostafa Jabbar said the government would look for its best interest of all but it should be kept in mind that the business environment of the country should not be effected.

The NBR chairman said that GP wanted to resolve the dispute through arbitration but as the BTRC law did not permit such a process, it was not possible.

"But there is other tools to resolve the matter," he added.

On September 5, BTRC issued show cause notices to GP asking them to explain within 30 days why their licences would not be cancelled for not paying the dues.

GP, however, filed two case with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims of Tk12,579.95 crore.

The telecom regulator on July 17 restricted permission for various services, imports, and infrastructure development by mobile phone operator GP.

The BTRC on July 4 cut 30% internet capacity of Grameenphone.

The BTRC ran its first audit back in 2011 on GP, and found financial discrepancies amounting to Tk3,034 crore in the operator's books from its inception in 1996 through to March 2011.

Grameenphone then disputed the appointment process of the auditing firm, and after a court ruling the BTRC in October 2015 appointed another firm, Toha Khan Zaman & Co., to run a new audit on GP’s books from its inception until June 2015.

GP officials claimed that the methodology on the particular issue of the BTRC were questionable. 

"For example, spectrum usage charges between 2002 and 2006 were paid based on demand notes claimed by the BTRC. However, in the BTRC audit, it was assessed that the demand notes were incorrectly calculated. Now the regulator wants us to pay the additional amount for the mentioned period,” Hossain Sadat, acting chief of GP's corporate affairs, told reporters at a press briefing in late July.

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