ID :
Sun, 09/07/2008 - 10:51
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Nobel laureate Yunus threatens to sue Telenor

Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Sept 6 (PTI) Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has
threatened to sue Norwegian telecom operator Telenor alleging
they violated deals with Grameen Phone, officials said on

"The recent activities (of Telenor-controlled
management of G..P) in Bangladesh leave me with little
alternative other than to investigate the possibility of
taking legal action," Yunus, now in Oslo, said in a statement
on Friday.

Yunus, whose experiment of poor men's banking earned
Bangladesh the repute of being the home of micro credit,
accused Telenor, a Norwegian telecom operator, of violating
the deal, laundering money and breaching Bangladeshi laws in
running the joint venture operations of the network, the
seventh largest in the world telecom sector.

"We cannot allow the name of Grameen to be tarnished
directly or indirectly by inappropriate operations," Yunus
said in the statement.

Referring to the 1996 deal, Yunus said Telenor and
Grameen Telecom agreed that the joint company should become a
locally operated company within six years with majority
Bangladeshi management and ownership.

"This has not happened. Telenor is unwilling to let go
control of the company. We now are being told that the
words of the written agreement in a legal sense are
non-committing statements. We relied on the words of the
agreement," Yunus complained.

Telenor, owns 62 percent shares while Yunus' Grameen
Telecom, a subsidiary of Grameen Bank, holds the remaining
stakes in Grameen Phone, launched in 1996.

Yunus demanded that Telenor authorises complete
transparency in the matters, making public the investigation
reports and shareholders' agreement.

"Bangladeshi authorities on two different occasions
found that the telephone company was not in compliance with
Bangladeshi laws. In total, the company was fined U.S.D. 60
million," he said.

Yunus added that the violation of Bangladeshi laws
posed a risk to the company of losing its license as a
telephone operator.

Telenor, meantime, said that it hoped for an amicable
solution to the row with Yunus over Grameen Phone which it
aims to list on the Dhaka bourse.

The Nobel laureate also hoped that legal actions might
not be needed if the owners of Telenor will require the
company to honour the intention it had expressed in 1996 for
transferring ownership and control of GrameenPhone to the poor
of Bangladesh.

But, he said, the transfer should take place at the
earliest before the reputation of Grameen is damaged further.

"I am very optimistic about the eventual outcome of this
controversy because it is really in the hands of the people
of Norway, whom I have come to know and trust. Norwegians set
a very high standard for business ethics, and they are the
majority owners of Telenor."