Kuwaiti telecoms giant Zain Group has insisted that it will continue its fight against a USD262 million fine imposed on its Iraqi operations by the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Reuters reports. Zain Iraq, the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers with an estimated 49.4% market share at end-June 2012, was hit with the fine in February 2011 after releasing five million SIM cards into the local market without prior permission.
For its part, Zain has denied any wrongdoing, but the Iraqi government has now taken steps to escalate the matter, opting to freeze the local unit’s bank accounts by way of punishment. In an emailed response to queries from Reuters, Zain confirmed: ‘Some Iraqi bank accounts pertaining to Zain Iraq have been frozen, however we are expecting some positive news regarding this soon. Our official position is that we are not liable at all for this fine. We think they have the best intention in doing what they believe is right, although we were very surprised for a decision like this to take place without a court ruling’. Zain declined to disclose the value of the funds frozen.
Meanwhile, CMC commissioner Ahmed Alomary has suggested that the watchdog is currently investigating whether or not to revise the decision so that the asset seizure includes only the previously stated fine. He admitted that the move to freeze Zain’s bank accounts has negatively impacted on the government, as the state has not been paid its contractual share of Zain Iraq’s revenues. Alomary said that he believed a resolution would be achieved within the next two weeks.