Iraqi authorities probed for allegedly rigging GSM tenders
Lawyers working for the US-led occupying forces in Iraq have made a recommendation to delay signing three telecom contracts last month to allow time to investigate claims of nepotism by Iraqi authorities in choosing the network providers.
Last month, the Iraqi Communications Ministry awarded GSM mobile phone licenses to three consortia; one led by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom (OT) and the others to groups led by Asia Cell and Atheer Tel. All three groups include Iraqi firms and the second two involve Kuwait's Wataniya Telecom and MTC.
The attorneys’ request is directed mainly at Iraqi-born British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi’s involvement in OT, the consortium chosen for the Baghdad and central Iraq mobile network, reported Financial Times.
Auchi came to Britain in the early 1980s after falling out of favor with the Saddam Hussein regime. He is currently Britain’s 13th richest man with an estimated two billion dollar hotel and shipping empire.
An international arrest warrant was issued for Auchi three years ago, after he was alleged to have received a multi-million-dollar bribe from oil giant Elf-Aquitaine during the sale of a Spanish refinery.
The delay to the signing of the mobile phone licenses comes amid broader concern about the workings of the Iraqi Governing Council. Nepotism is gaining momentum in Iraq as businessmen with close ties to members of the Council win large contracts in support of the nation’s reconstruction effort.
According to Iraqi and US businessmen, the influence of preferential treatment on Iraqi reconstruction ventures is discouraging foreign companies from pursuing deals in the Arab state. It is further tarnishing the image of an initiative already criticized for being dominated by politically connected US firms such as Halliburton and the Bechtel Group. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)