Grameenphone has decided to deposit Tk 1,000 crore to the state coffers tomorrow as per the order of the Supreme Court on Thursday -- a move that is likely to save it from BTRC's regulatory measures.
The operator has taken the decision to get court protection from the pressure the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has applied on it and its management, it said in a press release last evening that was signed off by its head of external communications Md Hasan.
The BTRC actions include declining no-objection certificates since July, issuing show-cause notice for licence cancellation, and denying recycling of number series, it said.
"These actions have had a negative impact on customer experience and business partners, reduced confidence in the business environment and dented interest from investors," added the statement from the operator, which has 46 percent share of the mobile subscribers in Bangladesh in its network.
But the Norwegian Telenor Group's subsidiary's latest move comes after the Supreme Court on Thursday raked it over the coals for failing to pay Tk 2,000 crore as per an earlier order.
"First pay Tk 1,000 crore to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and then come on February 24 [Monday] for further orders," said Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, who led the seven-member of the SC's Appellate Division, while passing the order on Thursday.
The order came in response to a review petition filed by Grameenphone earlier on January 26 to allow it to pay Tk 575 crore in twelve equal instalments.
The review petition was filed after the apex court had directed Grameenphone on November 24 last year to pay Tk 2,000 crore to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) within three months (by February 23) against the claim of Tk 12,579.96 crore determined by an audit.
The audit, which looked into Grameenphone's books from its inception until 2014, claimed that the carrier owed the amount in revenue shares, taxes and late fees.
The operator though still disputes the validity of the BTRC audit claim and "looks forward to having its position heard before the Hon'ble Courts", it said in the statement yesterday.
"Grameenphone respects the legal system of Bangladesh, the Hon'ble Supreme Court's direction," the statement added.
Had Grameenphone decided against furnishing the sum, the BTRC would have proceeded as per the telecom act, which empowers it to appoint an administrator, Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the telecom watchdog, told The Daily Star on Thursday.
And the telecom regulator has taken all preparations for appointing the administrator. The BTRC chairman even met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office on Monday and discussed a few potential candidates for the panel of administrator.
"We do not intend to embezzle from Grameenphone. Rather, we want to collect public money. The administrative panel's main responsibility will be to realise the amount," Jahurul had said.
But now it seems Grameenphone has batted away such fears.
"Complying with the Supreme Court's direction, Grameenphone expects that business operations will run without further obstacles and allow us to best serve our customers," the statement also reads.
The mobile carrier said it will continue its dialogue with the authorities of Bangladesh to find an amicable and transparent solution to the dispute and protect the value to customers, partners and shareholders.
The country's number two operator Robi is also locked in a similar dispute with the BTRC: the carrier disputes the unpaid amount of Tk 867.23 crore that the telecom watchdog's audits found.
The operator too took the matter to court, and on January 5 the High Court instructed it to pay Tk 138 crore in five instalments.
Robi has paid the first instalment of Tk 27.60 crore and duly saw the restrictions on it imposed by the telecom regulator lifted.