Anil Ambani group says lawsuit option open against rivals

June 18th, 2008 - 11:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG), which is engaged in consolidation talks with the South African telecom major MTN, Wednesday said it was open to criminal proceedings against some officials of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) for what it claimed was fraudulent misuse of powers by them. The statement was in response to a letter to MTN from Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), claiming the first right to refuse majority stake in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications, should they be put up for sale, based on a family pact two years ago.

“At this stage, all options including criminal proceedings against L.V. Merchant, Sandeep Tandon, K. Sethuraman and other RIL officials involved in the signing of Jan 12, 2006, agreement are open if RIL seeks to rely on the alleged agreement,” said the statement from Reliance Communications.

When contacted, RIL’s group president for corporate communications Paresh Chaudhry declined comment on the issue.

“I decline any comment. We will respond when we get a direct communication,” Chaudhry told IANS.

The statement from Reliance Communications said the so-called pact of Jan 12, 2006, based on which the Mukesh Ambani-led group sought to stake a claim over the company, was one-sided and not on an arms length basis.

“Control of RCOM (Reliance Communications) board, handed over to Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, [came] only on Feb 7, 2006,” the statement said. “[There was] criminal misuse of trust by RIL officials in execution of alleged agreement of Jan 12, 2006.”

Amid these statements, Anil Ambani was expected to fly to South Africa soon to take the negotiations forward, officials at his group said.

The two Reliance groups were carved out after a split in the business empire created by the late Dhirubhai Ambani and his sons, Mukesh and Anil, who are now estranged. Both figure in the elite Forbes rich list.

MTN had said June 14 that its consolidation talks with Reliance Communications were still on, barely hours after the Anil Ambani-led group charged the Mukesh Ambani group with trying to derail the discussions.

Reliance Communications has been attracted by MTN’s 70 million customers in 21 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Iran and Cyprus and its impressive balance sheet, showing a net profit of $1.58 billion on revenues of $9.62 billion.

And for the South African company, a consolidation will result in access to 48 million customers of Reliance Communications, covering 15,000 towns and 400,000 villages in India on a network of 165,000 km of optic fibre cables.

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