Telecommunications giant, MTN Uganda has confirmed the deportation of their two staff by Ugandan security authorities.
In a statement issued today Tuesday, MTN confirmed the deportation of Olivier Prentout, the telecommunications chief marketing officer and Annie Bilenge Tabura, the head of sales and distribution to France and Rwanda respectively.
According to the statement, Prentout was arrested by police from Entebbe airport on Saturday January 19 shortly after arrival from a business trip abroad while Tabura was picked up unidentified security personnel upon arrival at the MTN headquarters in Kololo on Monday.
MTN said they remain committed to respecting the laws of the country. "MTN Uganda, together with all its employees, remains fully committed to operating within and respecting the laws of the country," the statement reads.
An earlier statement signed by the deputy police spokesperson, Polly Namaye, says the duo was involved in activities that comprise national security and that they were using the telecom to achieve their ill motives. She explained that security agencies have been monitoring the activities of the duo in close coordination with immigration officials.
"We strongly believe that the deportation of the two foreigners, who were using their employment tools to achieve their ill motives, has enabled us disrupt their intended plans of compromising our national security," Namaye said in her statement.
Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga declined to divulge details of their investigations when contacted for further explanation. "And you think you will get those details? I don't think so. But get in touch with Polly [Namaye], I gave her that assignment," he said.
In July last year, the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) raided the South African telecoms firm, disconnecting four of its servers. MTN then reported the case as an “illegal intrusion.” MTN said the intruders had accessed the server room after the kidnap of one of their contractors, a Huawei Technologies employee who was forced to grant access.
President Museveni has publicly accused Uganda’s telecommunications for under-declaring calls and revenue earnings. MTN’s 20-year licence granted in 1998 expired last year on October 20 and the second interim licence also expired two days ago.
Renewal of the licence for one of the country's biggest taxpayers had seemed like it would be a routine process after the regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) assured the nation that MTN’s licence would be renewed for the next 10 years.
But according to the East African, Museveni recently raised concern over the $100m licence fee that was later reduced to $58m by UCC. Rwanda and Uganda are having a hushed intelligence war against each. Over the years, there have been repeated reports of both countries, arresting, detaining, deporting and sometimes killing each other's nationals overs suspected espionage.
On Saturday while addressing a crowd at the opening of the Uganda Revenue Authority new building, President Museveni said he had learnt that telecom companies were under declaring the number of calls to pay less tax. He said they had found that telecoms were under declaring calls made by over two million. This meant that even in taxes to government, they paid less money than they were supposed to pay.
“They will have to pay back taxes [which they evaded when they under declared],” Museveni said.
UCC received an application for a 10-year renewal of MTN's licence in October 2017. It thereafter kick-started the process of evaluating MTN's application. A public hearing was conducted in April 2018. The company earned a bill of good performance during evaluation process, however, with a few concerns.
UCC in a 2018 evaluation report noted; "MTN has largely provided uninterrupted communication services during the course of its licence in accordance with the laws of Republic of Uganda."
The regulator further stated; "whereas MTN has to a large extent complied with most of its licence and regulatory obligation, there are a number of outstanding areas of non-compliance which must be addressed."
A key issue of concern was MTN's continued disregard of warnings and directives on sending unsolicited messages to customers without the opting out option. In 2016 and 2017, UCC said it received 28 "second level customer complaints against MTN in regard to unsolicited messages without the opt-out option."
Second level complaints are grievances raised to the regulator after failing to get redress from the primary service provider.
MORE MTN STAFF UNDER INVESTIGATION
Meanwhile, police has summoned MTN's general manager in charge of mobile financial services, Elsa Muzzolin to appear at Special Investigations Division (SID) in Kireka and answer to cases related to incitement of violence.
It is not immediately clear what did or how Muzzolin incited violence.