Iraq blocks connection between Korek and domestic telecoms firms citing unpaid taxes

Communications and Media Commission asks company to pay $800 million

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Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission has blocked interconnection between the telecoms company Korek with domestic carriers due to alleged unpaid financial obligations, the federal body said on Sunday.

Korek is one of three mobile firms operating in Iraq, the others being Zain Iraq, the country’s largest mobile operator, and Asiacell.

The federal government's media and communication regulator’s chief executive Ali Al Moayed put the unpaid total at $800 million.

That amount covers fees of licences, equipment used by the company as well unpaid taxes dating back to 2018, Mr Al Moayed told state TV late on Sunday.

On October 22, CMC warned Korek Telecom that it would block its services in 10 days if it did not meet its financial obligations.

The government regulator did not mention corruption allegations against Korek made during a years-long row between Kuwaiti telecoms company Agility, which previously owned a stake in Korek, and the firm, which were settled in March.

The International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce awarded Agility and related companies with $1.65 billion in damages, a decision challenged by Korek.

The CMC “is in the process of severing the interconnection between Korek Telecom and other mobile phone companies operating in the country until the company fulfils its financial obligations”, it said in the statement.

On November 1, CMC blocked sending and receiving communications with other carriers.

The company has 5,200 million subscribers, with 70 per cent of them from the northern Kurdish region, Korek was established and is based, Mr Al Moayed said.

“This company has problems not only with the commission but with other government offices, for example, it has not paid taxes since 2018,” he added.

Based on the mobile firms’ licences, the companies had to list 25 per cent of their shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange. Zain Iraq and Asiacell listed their shares but Korek has failed to do so, Mr Al Moayed said.

Korek did not immediately respond to requests for comments by The National.

Iraq did not have a mobile phone industry under Saddam Hussein but the sector has grown rapidly since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the former dictator. It is now one of the few regional markets offering double-digit subscriber growth.

According to Zain Iraq, it has 17.6 million customers, while Asiacell says it serves 17 million customers.

Updated: November 06, 2023, 2:00 PM