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Woman on mobile in rickshaw, Delhi, India

India
Indian authorities are questioning Etisalat's US$900m telecommunications licence.

Etisalat unit under scrutiny



MUMBAI // India's anti-corruption department is set to intensify its investigation into Etisalat's Indian venture, raising questions over the UAE company's telecommunications licence less than a year after it paid US$900 million (Dh3.3 billion) for a 45 per cent stake. The inquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) revolves around Swan Telecom, the company Etisalat bought into in India nine months ago. Swan was then renamed and rebranded to Etisalat DB.

"The CVC's technical examiner is looking into the files of Swan," said CVC commissioner Pratyush Sinha. "We found that the allocation of 2G spectrum to private companies, including Swan, on a first-come, first-serve basis was not transparent." Etisalat DB has refused to be dragged into the controversy. An Etisalat DB spokesperson said: "Etisalat DB is not aware of this and we cannot comment on the matter."

The CVC is investigating allegations that Swan was secretly controlled by Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile phone company, when it received its licence in January last year. If the allegations are found to be true, Reliance would have violated the law barring one company from owning more than 10 per cent in two companies with telecoms licences. This would mean the licence received by Swan, and now part-owned by Etisalat, should not have been awarded.

Swan had been linked to Reliance, which holds a licence of its own, in the run-up to the bidding. Reliance last year said it owned a 9.9 per cent stake in Swan when the licence application was made. But it said it sold the stake to a Mauritius-based fund, Delhi Investments, before Swan was awarded the licence. This has been disputed by some politicians, who alleged Reliance owned a greater stake. The CVC has given India's Department of Telecoms until Saturday to submit the findings of an investigation it ordered into the controversy in April.

The nine licences awarded by A Raja, India's telecoms minister, have become a national scandal that refuses to die down. Only last month Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition, branded the awards "a monumental scam" and led a walkout from parliament. Some estimate that Mr Raja's decision to award rather than auction licences last year cost the government more than $4bn in lost licence fees. Swan paid less than $350m for its licence, and nine months later sold a 45 per cent stake to Etisalat for $900m, even though it had yet to make any investments in infrastructure.

Unitech, an Indian property firm, made a similar deal, selling a 60 per cent stake to Norway's Telenor for $1.3bn. Reliance last month renewed its links to Etisalat DB, when Reliance Infrastructure, a sister company, signed a $2.2bn deal to provide infrastructure. business@thenational.ae

Forced Deportations

While the Lebanese government has deported a number of refugees back to Syria since 2011, the latest round is the first en-mass campaign of its kind, say the Access Center for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization which monitors the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“In the past, the Lebanese General Security was responsible for the forced deportation operations of refugees, after forcing them to sign papers stating that they wished to return to Syria of their own free will. Now, the Lebanese army, specifically military intelligence, is responsible for the security operation,” said Mohammad Hasan, head of ACHR.
In just the first four months of 2023 the number of forced deportations is nearly double that of the entirety of 2022.

Since the beginning of 2023, ACHR has reported 407 forced deportations – 200 of which occurred in April alone.

In comparison, just 154 people were forcfully deported in 2022.

Violence

Instances of violence against Syrian refugees are not uncommon.

Just last month, security camera footage of men violently attacking and stabbing an employee at a mini-market went viral. The store’s employees had engaged in a verbal altercation with the men who had come to enforce an order to shutter shops, following the announcement of a municipal curfew for Syrian refugees.
“They thought they were Syrian,” said the mayor of the Nahr el Bared municipality, Charbel Bou Raad, of the attackers.
It later emerged the beaten employees were Lebanese. But the video was an exemplary instance of violence at a time when anti-Syrian rhetoric is particularly heated as Lebanese politicians call for the return of Syrian refugees to Syria.

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Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

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Chalet N is currently open in winter only, between now and April 21. During the ski season, starting on December 11, a week’s rental costs from €210,000 (Dh898,431) per week for the whole property, which has 22 beds in total, across six suites, three double rooms and a children’s suite. The price includes all scheduled meals, a week’s ski pass, Wi-Fi, parking, transfers between Munich, Innsbruck or Zurich airports and one 50-minute massage per person. Private ski lessons cost from €360 (Dh1,541) per day. Halal food is available on request.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
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Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League quarter-final, second leg (first-leg score):

Manchester City (0) v Tottenham Hotspur (1), Wednesday, 11pm UAE

Match is on BeIN Sports

Takreem Awards winners 2021

Corporate Leadership: Carl Bistany (Lebanon)

Cultural Excellence: Hoor Al Qasimi (UAE)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Bkerzay (Lebanon)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Raya Ani (Iraq)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Women’s Programs Association (Lebanon)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Osamah Al Thini (Libya)

Excellence in Education: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) (Qatar)

Outstanding Arab Woman: Balghis Badri (Sudan)

Scientific and Technological Achievement: Mohamed Slim Alouini (KSA)

Young Entrepreneur: Omar Itani (Lebanon)

Lifetime Achievement: Suad Al Amiry (Palestine)

The biog

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Favourite food: Pizza

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Most match wins on clay

Guillermo Vilas - 659

Manuel Orantes - 501

Thomas Muster - 422

Rafael Nadal - 399 *

Jose Higueras - 378

Eddie Dibbs - 370

Ilie Nastase - 338

Carlos Moya - 337

Ivan Lendl - 329

Andres Gomez - 322

Small Victories: The True Story of Faith No More by Adrian Harte
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