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 Orange turns up heat in Iraq legal battle

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PostSubject: Orange turns up heat in Iraq legal battle   Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:40 pm

Orange Group and a Kuwaiti company with which it formed a joint venture in Iraq to invest in operator Korek Telecom, expanded a US lawsuit with an allegation there was corruption among local shareholders, Financial Times (FT) reported.

The France-based operator and Agility Public Warehousing petitioned the Southern District of New York to subpoena financial information from five banks including Citibank and HSBC, in the hope of proving there was “self-dealing, material misappropriation and mismanagement” by local shareholders, led by businessman Sirwan Barzani.

Orange’s lawsuit relates to a $150 million loan taken out by Korek Telecom from a Lebanese bank in December 2011, which was arranged without the knowledge of the Iraq Telecom joint venture. The JV acquired a 44 per cent stake in Korek Telecom the same year for $810 million, as part of a broader plan to eventually take over the company.

Iraq Telecom said Barzani profited from the loan at Korek Telecom’s expense after the funds were apparently moved between various accounts belonging to the operator and businessman.

Agility and Orange also claim regulatory officials were bribed to block Iraq Telecom’s plans to take control of Korek Telecom.

A Korek Telecom representative branded the new filing part of a “scorched earth” campaign to destroy the company, adding Iraq Telecom was “grossly misrepresenting and mis-characterising facts”.

Meanwhile an Orange representative told FT: “Orange takes the issues raised in the petition very seriously…Iraq Telecom has pursued various means by which to further reveal and rectify the self-dealing and misappropriations that Barzani and others are engaged in”.
Separately, Agility last month filed an international arbitration claim, seeking damages of $600 million.

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