Business & Finance

Anil Ambani saves himself a prison term

It was almost D-day for Anil Ambani as he had to cough up an amount of ₹ 453 crore by tomorrow or face three months behind bars, as per Supreme Court orders.

Just last month the Supreme Court had held Anil Ambani and two other directors of Reliance Communications guilty of contempt of court saying it did not choose to pay Swedish telecom maker Ericsson an amount of ₹ 571 crore, in spite of having the funds to do so. The court ordered RCom to pay the dues within four weeks, else its promoter Anil Ambani and two other top executives would face a prison term of three months. Rcom has already deposited ₹ 118 crores of this amount, leaving ₹ 453 crores to be paid by tomorrow.

In a major setback for the telecom operator, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on Friday refused to direct SBI and other lenders of RCom to release ₹ 260 crore of income tax refunds due to Rcom to help it clear part of its dues. The lenders successfully argued that public money can’t be used to pay a private party, i.e. Ericsson.

Adding further to its woes, state owned telecom firm – BSNL, in a separate case approached the NCLT this week to recover dues of about ₹ 700 crore from RCom. Having already invoked bank guarantees of ₹ 100 crores submitted by RCom for default on payments, a decision was taken by BSNL to begin legal proceedings for recovery of dues of around ₹ 700 crores owed to it for interconnect charges – i.e. over calls made from RCom’s network to phones on BSNL’s network.

And just to round up the triple threat of trouble headed the way to the debt infested and poorly managed telecom operator, the arbitral tribunal has asked RCom to furnish bank guarantees to the tune of ₹ 16.43 crore to Bharti Airtel on a dispute over terminating contracts. In its ruling dated 11th March 2019, the NCLAT directed RCom to furnish bank guarantees of 15% of 79 crores and 20% of 22.92 crores totaling an amount of ₹ 16.43 crores in accordance with Airtel’s claims on account of exit fees and invoice charges respectively. However, RCom can challenge this verdict in the Delhi High Court.

However, in a dramatic move, just a couple of hours ago, the Anil Ambani led Reliance Communications saved their promoter and two other directors from the prison sentence by paying Ericsson their dues and ending the year long battle. Ericsson’s lawyer confirmed receipt of the payment.


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