Jasmine blames Chinese regulators for 900-MHz default


Thailand’s Jasmine has blamed Chinese regulators for its inability to pay for its 900-MHz 4G licence, while regulator NBTC is mulling criminal charges.

In a letter to the stock market regulator, Jasmine CEO Pete Bodaramik said that Jas Mobile Broadband had managed to secure funding from a major Chinese operator and Chinese banks to pay for the first installment of its 900-MHz license fee.

However Chinese regulators could not approve the deal before April, Bodaramik said, causing Jasmine to miss the 90-day deadline (on 21 March). He said that the NBTC would not compromise on the timing of the payments

Pete said in the letter that he has taken legal advice and is certain that the $18 million (644 million baht) deposit seized would be the end of the matter under article 5.2 of the auction agreement and that amount would not affect Jasmine’s continued operations.

The stock exchange has halted trading of Jasmine International PLC shares.

Elsewhere questions have emerged if there is a criminal case to answer for the failure of the auction.

NBTC commissioner Pravit Leesathornwongsa said that Jas could be criminally liable if the company had distorted the bidding process with no intention to pay. If found guilty the maximum penalty would be 50% of the winning bid of 75 billion baht, as well as three years’ jail time for Jas’ leaders.

Former Matichon editor-in-chief turned blogger Prasong Lertratanawisute was one of the first to suggest that a criminal case has merit given the inconsistencies by Jas. Why did Jas bid 75 billion baht when they had only asked their banks for 40 billion baht? Prasong also questioned whether the mysterious Chinese telco investor really existed and if so why were they not able to sort out the paperwork in time.

Prime Minister and Junta chairman General Prayuth Chanocha has decreed that the NBTC hold a new auction (rather than offer the spectrum to runner-up AIS).


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