The telecom regulator will resume issuing No Objection Certificates to the private mobile phone operator
Robi Axiata Ltd on Tuesday paid Tk27.60 crore to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) as the first instalment, of its dues, in compliance with a High Court order.
With this payment, the BTRC will resume issuing No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for importing network equipment, which have not been issued since July 22, 2019.
BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque said, "From now on, they will get their required NOCs as they have started to pay back the dues."
On January 5, the High Court asked the second largest private mobile network operator of the country to pay Tk138 crore to the BTRC, out of its Tk867.23 crore owed to the regulator, in instalments within the next five months.
Complying with the order, Robi deposited the amount, although it had called the claim "unfounded" since the beginning. The mobile phone operator claimed the commission did not follow the rules properly while conducting the audit.
Robi said it made the payment well ahead of the stipulated time for paying the first instalment considering the untold sufferings endured by its customers.
"We strongly believe this abundantly shows that we are a compliant company that operates following the rules and regulations of the country," said Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi.
"However, we still maintain that the audit report is devoid of even the semblance of rationality. 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 added.
Shahed said their 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 the confidence of our shareholders."
However, Robi officials said the operator made this move as it wanted to raise Tk500 crore in capital to expand its business by listing with the share market.
For this, they have already appointed IDLC Investments Ltd as the issue manager to facilitate the listing process.
Earlier on July 4 last year, the BTRC hit Robi Axiata Ltd with an audit claim of Tk867.23 crore and stopped issuing NOCs from July 22.
Following an audit in 2016, the commission claimed the money from Robi accumulated for unpaid revenues, taxes and late fees up to 2014 since its inception in 1997.
Robi then filed a case with a lower court on August 25, seeking its directive on the BTRC refraining from collecting dues from the mobile network operator and halting any harassment until the issue is resolved.
But the lower court rejected the application, following which Robi filed an appeal with the High Court, which was accepted for a hearing on October 20.
The High Court initially fixed November 3 for hearing the appeal, but it was later shifted to November 14, November 25, December 1, and December 8.
Concurrently, BTRC also claimed Tk12,579 crore from Grameenphone – the largest mobile network carrier of the country.
On November 24, the Supreme Court asked Grameenphone to pay Tk2,000 crore out of the Tk12,579 crore claimed by the commission. However, they are yet to make their decision to pay the sum as February 24, the last date to pay the sum, is approaching.
Due to this dispute, BTRC also refrained from issuing NOCs for Grameenphone as well.
The regulatory commission has threatened to appoint administrators for both operators and cancelling their licenses if they do not pay the dues.