What began as a corporate fight between Unitech Ltd and Norway-based Telenor has mushroomed into a national security issue. Documents with Hindustan Times show that the managing director of Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd — Sigve Brekke, a Telenor nominee in the Unitech-Telenor joint venture — was also a director on the board of Pakistan Telenor.
Brekke was a director of Pakistan Telenor for five days after joining the Unitech Wireless board. As a Uninor director, Brekke made several visits to Pakistan and met ministers and bureaucrats in the past two years, according to Pakistan government documents.
Among other visits, he headed a delegation of Telenor Pakistan and met Pakistan’s minister of state and chairman of board of investment Salim H Mandviwalla.
Brekke resigned from the board of directors of Telenor Pakistan on March 25, 2009. He was appointed a director in the board of Unitech Wireless on March 20, 2009. When contacted, a Unitech Ltd, the 32.75% shareholder of Unitech Wireless, spokesperson declined to comment.
“The FIPB conditions are very clear,” a Uninor spokesperson said. “They stipulate that anyone assuming the position of MD of Uninor must not have been employed by Telenor’s Pakistan operations. Brekke has never been employed in Telenor Pakistan. He held a non-executive position on the board of that company, which too he resigned a full year before taking up the Uninor managing director role. Brekke’s clearance to take up this position has been cleared by the authorities after full and total disclosures.”
As far as Brekke’s visits to Pakistan are concerned, “Brekke has not travelled even once to Pakistan since assuming the position of managing director of Uninor, from when the security conditions apply,” the spokesperson said.
Unitech and Telenor are currently fighting over the proposed right issue of Unitech Wireless and sources said this could be a fallout of that spilling over.
“This is not the first time that the decision of the Uninor board to proceed with this rights issue has been attempted to be blocked,” the Uninor spokesperson said. “Most recently, one such attempt was thwarted subsequent to the intervention of the Supreme Court of India. Several other such attempts are now underway, and we will meet each of them with facts and truth.”