Uzbekistan bans Russian phone firm
Russian mobile operator MTS has been strapped with a $900 million tax and its operating license has been revoked.A court in Uzbekistan has cancelled operating licences of a subsidiary of the Russian cell phone operator MTS after presenting the company with a massive new tax claim, it said.
A Tashkent court backed on Aug. 13 a request from the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Information, a state regulator, to cancel operating licenses owned by the Moscow-based company’s local subsidiary Uzdunrobita, MTS said, according to Agence France-Presse. Last week, the government regulator filed a lawsuit against Uzdunrobita to force the company to withdraw its licenses, complaining that Uzdunrobita was still operating even though its licenses had been suspended owing to a controversial tax case. The local MTS operator, which has been hit with a $900 million tax bill, said it would appeal the ruling within 10 days.
The company, which has denounced the case as illegal “pressure on a Russian investor,” argues that the Uzbek government agency signed the license agreement with Uzdunrobita in 2004 and that it covered all of the company’s branches. On July 30, Uzdunrobita had its licence suspended for three months by the same court. An initial 10-day license suspension in mid-July left nearly 9.5 million Uzbek clients unexpectedly without a cell phone connection.
MTS said in a press release on its website yesterday that since the beginning of the crisis, five of its team members were detained illegally and arrested on the unwarranted and unsubstantiated charges. “Later, one of the managers Radik Dautov, a Russian citizen, was released after intervention of the Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now, four of our team members remain in custody. We are working hard to ensure their safety and then to restore our operations in the country,” the statement read. k HDN