Mobile operator Robi on Tuesday paid Tk 27.60 crore to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission as the first out of five instalments of Tk 138 crore against the BTRC’s audit claim as per a High Court order.
The High Court on January 5 directed Robi Axiata Limited, the second largest mobile operator in the country, to pay in equal five instalments in five months Tk 138 crore out of the telecom regulator’s audit claim amounting to Tk 867.23 crore.
Robi was supposed to pay the first instalment by January 31.
BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque said that they received the cheque for the amount from the operator.
He said that the regulator would now start issuing to the operator no objection certificates (NOC) required for various purposes as the operator started making payment as per the court direction.
The BTRC will also issue NOC to Grameenphone if the operator pays the dues, he said.
‘We have made deposit of the first instalment to the BTRC today [Tuesday], honouring the ad-interim ruling of the High Court,’ Robi chief corporate and regulatory officer Shahed Alam said in a statement issued on the day.
‘Considering the untold suffering endured by our customers, we have decided to make this deposit payment well ahead of the stipulated time for making the first instalment,’ he said, adding, ‘We strongly believe this abundantly shows that we are a compliant company that operates following the rules and regulation of the country.’
‘However, we still maintain that the audit report is devoid of even the semblance of rationality,’ Shahed said.
‘Therefore, we are determined to exhaust the legal recourse available to us and hope that we will be able to reclaim the deposit we are making today in due course,’ he said, adding, ‘Furthermore, our shareholders may independently explore other legal options available to them to seek justice in this regard.’
‘While we honour the High Court ruling, it is undeniable that the manner in which the entire process has been handled has severely eroded our shareholders’ confidence,’ he said.
The High Court in its directive also asked the BTRC not to take any step to realise Tk 867.23 crore on the condition that Robi would pay it Tk 138 crore in five months.
The court, after hearing an application filed by Robi seeking stay on realisation by the BTRC of Tk 867.23 crore in dues, also said that its stay on realisation of the dues ‘shall stand vacated’ in the case of Robi’s failure to pay the instalments.
Earlier on November 24, 2019, the Appellate Division directed Grameenphone Limited, the largest mobile operator in the country, to pay within three months Tk 2,000 crore out of Tk 12,579.95 crore in BTRC audit claim.
The Appellate Division also said that the High Court’s stay on realisation of Tk 12,579.95 crore by the BTRC should stand vacated if the mobile operator failed to pay the amount in the timeframe.
The Appellate Division issued the directive after disposing of an application filed by the BTRC seeking permission to appeal against the High Court’s stay order on realisation of Tk 12,579.95 crore.
The BTRC on April 2, 2019 served a demand notice on GP to pay the amount based on an audit report conducted by a firm appointed by the commission.
The firm, a joint venture of Toha Khan Zaman and Co Chartered Accountants, calculated that GP had not paid Tk 12,579.95 crore to the BTRC and the National Board of Revenue since 1997.
Earlier on July 31, 2018, the BTRC in a notice also demanded Tk 867.23 crore in audit claim from Robi.
Both GP and Robi moved the High Court after the lower court rejected their prayers to restrict the BTRC from realising the dues until their pending lawsuits over the disputes were settled.
On October 17, 2019, the High Court stayed realisation by the BTRC of the audit claim from GP.
Later, the BTRC moved the Appellate Division to vacate the stay on realisation of the claim.
On October 17, 2019, the telecom ministry approved a BTRC proposal to appoint administrators to GP and Robi over non-payment of the audit claims.