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Thursday, August 14, 2008

GP agrees to pay Tk250cr fine for illegal VoIP business

Grameenphone, the country's largest mobile phone operator, agreed to pay Tk250crore (around $36.5million) to the telecom watchdog yesterday for its involvement in illegal call termination through VoIP.

Grameenphone, which is mainly run by World's one of the leading telecom operator Telenor, already paid Tk50crore ($7.3million) to the telecom regulator and by October it will pay the rest of the amount, according to a deal signed with the Bangladesh Telecom-munications Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

This is not the first time Grameenphone will pay fine for the illegal business. The company earlier paid Tk168 crore for VoIP (voice over internet protocol) use. VoIP is a technology that allows someone to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.

"We deeply regret that such unlawful practice was carried out and not disclosed earlier by Grameenphone," said Anders Jensen, chief executive officer of the Grameenphone in a written statement to the press.

“We have cooperated with BTRC in the investigations and the Grameenphone board also conducted an investigation by an external auditor to look into all aspects of our operations to ensure that we fully comply with all laws and regulations," he said.

Norway's Telenor and Bangladesh's Grameen Telecom hold 62 percent and 38 percent stakes in the Grameenphone respectively. Grameenphone, with over 20.86 million subscribers, has submitted a proposal to the capital market watchdog recently to offload its shares worth $300million in the capital market by September this year.

On January 16 this year, the BTRC filed a case against 10 former and in service high officials including two former CEOs of Grameenphone, accusing their involvement in illegal VoIP.

According to the FIR, the accused former Grameenphone officials are Erik Aas and Ola Ree, chief executive officers, Thor Randhaug, technical director, Yogesh Sanjeev Malik, chief technical officer, and Mehboob Chowdhury, director, sales and marketing.

Khalid Hasan, director (regulatory and corporate affairs), Md Shafiqul Islam, chief technical officer, Kafil HS Muyeed, director (new business), Md Arif Al Islam, director finance, and Espen Wiig Warendroph, head of revenue assurance, were also accused.

Grameenphone, AccessTel, a local internet service provider, and Malaysia-based international call carrier DiGi Telecommunications are also on the accused list.

In the FIR, the telecoms regulatory body said these three companies and individuals were involved in providing international call termination facility or VoIP.

Talking to the Daily Star, Major General Manjurul Alam (rtd), chairman of BTRC said the commission imposed the fine based on valid documents and equipment seized from Grameenphone office.


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