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SC asks GP not to settle BTRC audit dispute outside court

  • Published at 11:54 pm November 18th, 2019
High Court-HC-court
File photo of High Court building Dhaka Tribune

After running an audit on the Norway-based company, BTRC in 2016 claimed Tk12,579.95 crore from the mobile phone operator in taxes and late fees accumulated over the years

The Supreme Court yesterday asked the country’s largest mobile phone company Gramenphone not to go for any arbitration or outside court settlement with the government over telecom regulator’s Tk12,579 crore audit claim.  

A four-member Appellate Division bench, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, set November 25 for the order  on a appeal of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) that sought ruling on the audit claim.

Advocate AM Aminuddin and Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh took part in the hearing for GP, while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib moved the case for the state.

“Court asked GP not to settle the audit dispute outside the court,” BTRC lawyer Reza-E-Raquib told Dhaka Tribune.

After running an audit on the Norway-based company, BTRC in 2016 claimed Tk12,579.95 crore from the mobile phone operator in taxes and late fees accumulated over the years.

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

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

GP officials claimed that the methodology in the particular issue of BTRC was questionable.

Eelier in July the BTRC slashed GP’s bandwidth temporarily by 30% and on July 22 the telecom regulator decided not to give any types of approval to the operator to roll out new packages or services, or import network equipment to pressure it into clearing their dues. 

GP in a statement yesterday said, “The Hon’ble Appellate Division has adjourned the hearing until 24 Nov and the stay order passed by the Hon’ble High Court is still in effect. We again demand that BTRC comply with the current stay order and act in good faith. The audit report is incorrect and any attempt to collect money on the basis of such audit should stop,”

“We expect BTRC to immediately take the necessary actions to process and allow the release of our equipment from customs, import equipment for network expansion and to offer products & services to customers,” it reads. 

“While we remain respectful to the court proceedings, we reaffirm our commitment that the way to resolve the audit issue is to continue with the jointly committed transparent process towards an amicable resolution with the Hon’ble ICT Advisor and relevant members of the Government,” the statement added.