NEW evidence has emerged that mobile-phone operator Beeline is subject to an ongoing US$2.5 million lawsuit filed by market leader Mobitel, despite assurances made by company representatives this week that the high-profile dispute reached a “satisfactory situation” earlier in the year.
On Monday, Gael Campan, Beeline’s general director, said relations between the providers were “back to normal” after Mobitel filed a lawsuit against Beeline late last year, accusing it of using Mobitel mobile-phone prefixes without permission.
On Wednesday, however, the Post received a letter stating that Beeline is still the subject of a $2.5 million suit currently before Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“The lawsuit between Mobitel and Beeline has not yet been solved, and we filed [another] lawsuit to the court on February 24, 2010,” stated the correspondence, sent by lawyers acting for Kith Meng, chairman of Royal Group, which owns Mobitel. Royal Group did not answer calls for comment on the issue this week.
An attached document, provided by lawyers Suong Chantharn and Cheng Peng Hab and filed with the court, accuses Beeline of “badly affecting the reputation of CamGSM” and acting in a “dishonest way” by allegedly using Mobitel’s 012, 017, 092, 089, and 077 prefixes.
“Beeline itself knows that this is a kind of dishonest competition against CamGSM, but Beeline still continues to intentionally violate [it] in order to cause damage to CamGSM,” states the filing.
The filing requests that Phnom Penh Municipal Court award $1.5 million in damages and $1 million in compensation to Mobitel, also known as CamGSM.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said Thursday that the lawsuit originated in August and was then passed to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) – “the competent body for launching further investigations”.
MPTC was instructed to act as arbitrator between the parties, he added. “If reconciliation [was achieved] it would be finished, but if the reconciliation [was not achieved], the municipal court would proceed with the case,” he said.
Since November, several attempts by the MPTC at reconciling the two parties failed to produce results, lawyer Cheng Peng Hab said
Wednesday. The lawyer added that “the dispute between Mobitel and Beeline is still ongoing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court”, and confirmed that the newer lawsuit was filed in February.
Sok Roeun declined to comment on whether Beeline had filed papers with the court.
Emails sent to Beeline officials in Cambodia, including Gael Campan, went unanswered on Wednesday and Thursday.
Benoit Janin, Beeline’s commercial director, said by phone Thursday morning that he would look at the correspondence sent by the Post, but did not reply to further calls or emails.
Natalya Tashkeeva, public relations manager of international business development at Beeline’s Moscow-based parent company VimpelCom, wrote in an email late Thursday that 100 percent of calls on and off Beeline’s networks were reaching their intended recipients.
“We can only confirm what we said on Monday conference: ‘All things are back to normal’,” she said.
According to a transcript of the Post’s conversation with Campan, when asked directly if the “lawsuit is a thing of the past”, he said: “Yes, as I said, for a long time.”
Mobitel chairman Kith Meng declined to comment, pointing reporters to his lawyers’ letter. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun also declined to comment Thursday. MPTC Director General Mao Chakrya did not answer his phone.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ELLIE DYER