The government of Senegal says Business Insider‘s description of a $200 million demand of Millicom International Cellular to keep its licence to operate does “not constitute corruption or the extortion of funds.”
In an article published Thursday, Business Insider revealed for the first time the details of a failed negotiation between Senegalese officials and the multinational phone service provider over a 20-year licence from 1998 to provide cell phone service in the small West African country.
Picked up by the Senegalese press, the article described an account written by Millicom in a request for arbitration before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. In it, Millicom claimed that the President’s son, Karim Wade and another presidential counselor, Thierno Ousmane Sy, demanded a payment of $200 million to keep its licence.
The $200 million figure, the officials said, was based on what Sudanese telecom company Sudatel paid the government for a licence in 2007. (Millicom won a competitive public tender process in 1998, paying a reported $980,000 or CFAfr50m, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.)
For the original article, Millicom declined to comment for this story, citing ongoing litigation, and the Senegalese Embassy in Washington did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
On Sunday, Senegal responded. The Prime Minister, Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye (pictured), put out a statement via Le Soleil, a pro-government newspaper. Translated from French, it reads: “The description of the dispute between the Republic of Senegal and Millicom and the negotiations that preceded it are totally inexact and, based on the evidence, biased.”
The communique then summarizes the legal history between Millicom and the government since Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000 and telecom law was changed. It includes the disputed revocation of Millicom’s licence; negotiations resulting in Millicom continuing to operate on a temporary basis; the government’s demands based on the $200 million paid by Sudatel; and Senegal suing Millicom in local court.
“Millicom did not respect its engagement to negotiate in good faith and even went as far as pretending it always was the holder of a licence,” the statement says.
“Based on the evidence, the sudden publication of the article on the website “www.businessinsider.com” on actions from the year 2008, obeys Millicom International’s desire to interfere with the normal course of the arbitrage procedure currently in process.”
“The incriminating article constitutes a new manifestation of the recent campaign to disparage the institutions of the Republic of Senegal using pernicious means.”
See Business Insider’s original article on Senegal, Millicom and alleged corruption here.
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