PNG QUESTIONS UNAUTHORIZED TELECOM TRANSACTION

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bemobile shareholder spends $15 million on Solomons license

By Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier) - A minor shareholder of bemobile used US$15 million (PGK44 million) from the company to pay for a mobile license in the Solomon Islands without board approval, it was revealed in Parliament yesterday.

GEMS Limited was named by Opposition Leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, when he raised a series of questions to State Enterprises Minister, Arthur Somare, on what he intended to do about it.

Sir Mekere said GEMS which holds 35 percent in the company is also the manager of bemobile which is the main shareholder with 50 percent.

bemobile is partly owned by Telikom PNG and its other shareholders include PNGSDP, Nambawan Supa, and Nasfund with five per cent each.

In response to Sir Mekere, minister Somare, said he had no knowledge about it and would investigate the matter. "Are you aware that GEMS Limited has unilaterally used US$15 million of bemobile funds to pay for a Solomon Islands mobile license," Sir Mekere asked. "These funds had been contributed by bemobile shareholders to fund a specific capital works program for bemobile in Papua New Guinea.

"The US$15 million was paid without the knowledge or authorisation of the board of bemobile or the other shareholders."

Sir Mekere asked what action Telikom was going to take as majority shareholder and if GEMS was going to be removed as manager of bemobile. He also asked if the money was recoverable given that it was paid without proper authorization.

"What now is the fate of the planned capital works program for bemobile in PNG, given that US$15 million of money contributed by shareholders has been paid to the Solomon Islands," he asked. "Who will now fund bemobile’s capital works program, given that other shareholders will be wary of putting money in the way of GEMS, the managers.

"If bemobile does not have sufficient capital to fund the upgrade and expansion of infrastructure in PNG, how will it fund the roll-out of the capital works program required to establish a mobile network in Solomon Islands."

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