Lap Green Networks, the Libya-based African telecom group, insists that it is committed to launching mobile services through its affiliate Ambitel in Sierra Leone despite a growing controversy over allegations that it breached a contract in its deal to buy a majority stake in the company.
Lap Green Networks, also known through its brand LapGreenN, bought an 85 percent stake in Ambitel in 2007, securing a national license to provide GSM, WiMax and ISP services.
However, Ambitel's founder, Michael Kenneth Ondaan, has claimed that he sold the controlling stake of the company to Lap GreenN with an outstanding balance of $2 million due to him, which has not been paid yet. He has also told the press that as part of their contract agreement, the new telco should operate under the brand name Ambitel-GreenNet Sierra Leone and that he should be a member of its board of directors and consultant with a monthly salary of $6,000.
However, the conditions have not been met, Ondaan has said in statements to the press over the past few weeks. Ondaan also said that a team from Lap GreenN Uganda was in Sierra Leone last month to settle the company's outstanding financial commitment to him and others but reportedly reneged, asking him to invest more or they would buy his shares in the company for $50,000.
Ondaan has also reported that Lap GreenN is in discussions about Ambitel with the Intergroup Telecom, the operator of Smart Mobile in Sierra Leone. Intergroup has reportedly agreed to pay $3 million for the proposed merger with LapGreen.
Lap GreenN denied Ondaan's allegations in a press release last week. Interim Ambitel CEO John Weir on Monday told IDG News via e-mail that Ondaan's allegations are not likely to affect the telco's operations going forward because "the recent allegations are unfounded (as stated in press release) and will have no influence on our plans to move the business forward. We are committed to launching as per our press statement and will continue with this."
Ambitel had been expected to introduce services in Sierra Leone by April 27, 2011, when the country marked its 50th anniversary of independence but the planned launch got stalled by the ongoing crisis in Libya, where former strongman Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated later that year
In the Ambitel press release, issued last Thursday, Lap GreenN Chairman Wafik Al Shater, said "Ambitel has been subject to significant challenges over recent years which have delayed development of the business. This is why, now more than ever, we are putting our energies and resources to ensure the provision of world class telecommunications services to the people of Sierra Leone this year."
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