In an effort to improve its telecommunications coverage, Myanmar had announced its intention to grant two mobile licenses in January of this year, and received 22 application bids from 18 international mobile providers. Last month, Myanmar’s telecom ministry reduced the initial list of approved bidders to 12, which included the Vodafone and China Mobile consortium.
In advance of the June 3 deadline to submit formal proposals for one of the two 15-year licenses, the Vodafone-China Mobile consortium has decided “not to proceed with the process as the opportunity does not meet the strict internal investment criteria to which both Vodafone and China Mobile adhere,” the company said. The consortium’s decision to withdraw from the bidding process follows a review of Myanmar’s final license conditions released on May 20.
According to the announcement, Vodafone and China Mobile will, “continue to watch Myanmar’s progress with interest and will give due consideration to any future opportunities that would meet the companies’ investment criteria.”
Where Lies the Morale Compass of Denis O’Brien
In Relation to the Moriarty Tribunal, the cards are on the table.
Judge for yourself
March 2010, a judicial tribunal found that a former minister for communications, Michael Lowry, “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone license competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found that O’Brien made two payments to Lowry, in 1996 and 1999, totalling approximately £500,000, and supported a loan of Stg£420, 000 given to Lowry in 1999. In his 2,348-page report, Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty found that the payments from O’Brien were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr. Lowry” during the licence process, acts which benefited Esat Digifone. In effect, O’Brien was trading in influence or ‘legal corruption’
Did O’Brien and Lowry behave in an ethical way in this matter
Let’s step back in time
The telecommunications company has been accused of giving gifts to a senior Antiguan government adviser who, along with an ambassador-at-large, have been suspended for allegedly making improper contacts with the tender’s board which is considering bids for the sale of the mobile department of the state-run utility company.
Senior adviser to the Minister of Communications Dean Jonas and Ambassador-at-large Dr Isaac Newton were suspended last month after Communications Minister Wilmoth Daniel said they met with the tender’s board in [an] attempt to influence the members to accept Digicel’s bid.
Once again, we see controversy in obtaining a licence from an O’Brien company
Where lies the moral compass of Digicel?
The licensing of mobile network operators has occurred in an unstructured, random fashion that defies explanation. Ownership has been obscure and one suspects deliberately so with the aim of concealing nepotism and corruption
Prosecutors in the USA identified smaller operators, which had been bribing politicians and officials at Haiti Teleco, by way of shell companies, in order to get cheaper rates for calls. A series of convictions has resulted in over forty years of jail sentences. By means of money laundering charges, some of the recipients of the bribes have since been extradited and convicted resulting in jail sentences of up to 40 years.
In May 2006, Comcel and Haitel had about 500,000 subscribers – a cell phone coverage rate of 6% for a population of 8.2 million. Digicel entered the market in May 2006. After one year of operations, May 2006-May 2007, Digicel went from zero to 1.4 million subscribers. The two other cell phone providers in Haiti, Comcel, and Haitel, responded by cutting their prices and offering new services. As a result, Comcel and Haitel increased their subscribers from 500,000 to 1 million. As of April 2012, Digicel has about 3.5 million cell phone subscribers in Haiti. In May 2007, Digicel started offering two BlackBerry services with the Internet, one for enterprises and one for individuals. On March 30, 2012, Digicel has made the acquisition of Comcel / Voila, its main competitor in the Haitian market.
The question is was all of this possible without backhanders.
It was interesting to see that one of the witnesses who appeared in the High court defamation trial against the Irish Daily Mail was the Former Minister for Social Affairs in Haiti Ms. Josefa Gauthier she told the High Court she does not believe businessman Denis O’Brien’s relief work following the earthquake was an act. She said that Mr. O’Brien never sought to publicise his aid work.
Ms. Josefa Gauthier is also a former director of the Digicel Foundation (1)
The disappearing millions
MIAMI, USA – President Michel Martelly told the Haitian Diaspora community in Miami that the National Fund for Education, established in May 2011, had accumulated $16 million [US] and not a penny of it had been touched. Although in January of 2012, Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien said the fund had collected $20 million [US], and in October 2011, the then-Minister of Education said the fund had $28 million [US].
In this instance the magnetic field appears to be giving the compass some problems nevertheless the signs still point to dollars
The background of Josefa is rather interesting.
*Ms. Josefa Raymond Gauthier is the daughter of Adrien Raymond a former minister under Duvalier Government a regime well known for corruption and heavy-handed treatment of its citizens.
On the return of baby doc. Jan 16 2011 delegation of former officials who had served under his regime was waiting at the airport including the former foreign affairs minister Adrien Raymond and former presidential guard commander, the former Colonel Christophe Dardompré.
Current Haitian government links to old regime would bear scrutiny … Thierry and Gregory Mayard-Paul, whose father Constantin Mayard-Paul was a lawyer for Claude Raymond, a feared army lieutenant general under “Baby Doc.” Etc
It is interesting to note that Laurent Lamothe the current Prime Minister has a background in telecommunications
*Min. of Planning & External Cooperation 07/11/201
(1) Many large corporations have charitable foundations and no doubt do good work. It should also be noted that some of the most corrupt companies in the world also have charitable foundations which leads to an illusion that they must be on the road to the
The Appeal Commissioner, Ronan Kelly, found in 2003 that a house at 6 Raglan Road, Dublin 4, purchased by Denis O’Brien in 2000 was not a ‘permanent home’ under the Ireland/Portugal Double Taxation Convention.
Revenue then withdrew an assessment to capital gains tax of €57.8m in the tax year 2000/2001.
This arose from the sale by Mr O’Brien of shares in Esat Telecom.
Counsel for the Revenue, Anthony Collins SC, said the Appeal Commissioner had ‘erred in law’ in not recognising that someone could have two permanent homes under the Convention.
It said it had ‘conflated’ the concept of a permanently available home and a principal private residence.
Counsel for Denis O’Brien, Dermot Gleeson SC, said the property at Raglan Road was purchased as an investment.
He said Mr O’Brien’s family had moved to Portugal and did not have a home in Dublin during the tax year of 2000/2001.
He added that “no stick of O’Brien furniture ever went into this house.”
Denis O’Brien and his defamation lawsuit in California
April 2, 2013 by namawinelake
[The originating lawsuit is here, the respondent’s answer is here, and this is what the American’s call a “report” for the court which is supposed to assist the court with managing the case and focuses on the issues involved]
There doesn’t appear to have been much reporting in the old media in Ireland about a defamation case initiated last November 2012 by controversial businessman, Denis O’Brien and his telecoms company Digicel, in a Californian district court. The Sunday Times did cover the case in a report in early December 2012 – not available without subscription – but the general absence of reporting is remarkable given the fascinating detail that has so far emerged in court filings.
The case was initiated last November 2012 in California by Denis and his telecoms company, Digicel. Denis and his company are claiming that an individual named Donald MacAllister has made a series of falsehoods in written statements and Denis’s lawsuit says “the purpose and effect of this pattern of misconduct is to (a) expose Denis O’Brien to hatred, contempt, ridicule and disgrace, (b) threaten that unless Mr. O’Brien pays Mr. MacAllister millions of dollars, Mr. MacAllister will continue to attempt to wrongfully connect him to criminal conduct and/or expose him to disgrace or contempt, and ( c) interfere with the prospective economic advantage to be gained by Mr. O’Brien and his company, Digicel”. For his part, Donald is denying the central allegations, and is saying that Denis owes him money from an investment a decade ago of €100,000 in Digicel.
Denis is represented by Neal Potischman of Californian law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell and Donald is presently representing himself.
There are a number of aspects to the case, but one of the main accusations is that Donald has contacted people with allegedly false information about two matters (1) the Moriarty Tribunal – the tribunal set up by the Irish government in 1997 to investigate the finances of former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and telecoms minister, Michael Lowry, and which reported its findings in March 2011 – and (2) the decision by the Supreme Court in October 2012 which allows unsuccessful bidders, including Declan Ganley’s Cellstar, for the 1996 mobile phone licence to be allowed present their case to the High Court where they are alleging wrongdoing in the award of the phone licence to Denis. By the way, the latest from justice minister, Alan Shatter, on the Garda investigation following publication of the Moriarty report was included in a response to a parliamentary question on 12thMarch 2013, when Minister Shatter stated “the Report of the Moriarty Tribunal has been examined by the Garda authorities and the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions has now been sought by them, with a view to determining whether or not a full Garda investigation should now be commenced.”
Donald is accused by Denis in the Californian lawsuit of sending emails containing falsehoods to an array of Irish, American, Jamaican and Burmese politicians and media including Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail senator Diarmuid Wilson, #vinb himself Vincent Browne and Burmese Opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
There was supposed to have been a case management hearing last week in California which would schedule a date for the full hearing, but we are still awaiting confirmation of the order from that. We do know that both sides believe the matter will required a 2-3 day hearing, and that Donald is looking for a jury hearing.
He’s a first cousin of Denis O’Brien, his mother Maureen was the sister of Denis O’Brien’s father, Denis Senior. Donald’s father, from whom his mother was divorced, was an American physician, Dr Niall MacAllister. It is claimed in the lawsuit that Donald is now a resident of Orange County, California. Then Amazon website where his self-published e-book about the death of his mother is available, says of Donald: “Despite the extraordinary challenges Donald MacAllister faced as a orphaned child, foster youth and homeless young adult, he founded and directed the non-profit organization America Works for Kids, which became the United States leading employment-readiness training organization for foster youth. Over the course of 15 years he achieved a record over 10,000 trained foster youth. In addition to his two Congressional recognitions and testimonies, he also received personal commendations from U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Chairman of the U.S Securities Commission Christopher Cox. MacAllister’s goal is to help as many foster youth as possible avoid the plight he faced.”
The 1972 car crash
The 9-year old Donald was travelling by car , a Hillman Hunter owned by Denis O’Brien senior, in Foxrock, south county Dublin on 31st August, 1972 with his mother Maureen driving and brother Niall in the back seat when they collided with a Daimler driven by the then 36-year old Michael Smurfit, now one of Ireland’s richest men. In 2011, Donald wrote an ebook about the crash; the book is available from Amazon here. In his reply to the present lawsuit in California, Donald writes that a report – commissioned by Donald from an outfit called Crash Team Inc, and which apparently had input from a “Mr Finn, the former Head of Ireland’s Forensic Crash Investigation Unit” – said “it is our opinion that Maureen O’Brien (MacAllister) was not speeding, and was not initially on the wrong side of the road. Her motion to the incorrect side was an attempt to avoid the oncoming Daimler which was in her lane when she first detected it. We have concluded this fatal accident occurred as a result of Michael Smurfit speeding, and driving on the incorrect side of center”. There is no corroboration of the claim made by Donald in his answer, and Michael Smurfit has been exonerated by Gardai of fault in the tragedy, though Donald is now saying that he has been discussing a fresh inquiry with Gardai. Sunday Times reporting in 2011 suggests that Michael Smurfit didn’t know until 2011 that the woman killed in the 1972 car crash was Denis O’Brien’s aunt.
Denis O’Brien and Michael Smurfit (pictured together here)
Donald claims in his reply to the lawsuit, that, in 2009, Denis O’Brien told Donald that Michael Smurfit had financed the first of Denis O’Brien’s forty radio stations.
Denis O’Brien and the Clinton Foundation
Denis’s lawsuit remains silent on a statement by Donald that Denis is the largest contributor to President Bill Clinton’s Foundation; the lawsuit states
“In a 1 November 2012 email, sent to Mr O’Brien and apparently copying, on information and belief an Irish government minister and an Irish Senator, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a U.S. State Department employee, and members of the Irish and American media, Mr. MacAllister stated: “I will now prepare to send a letter to the US Congress, the US Senate and the US President informing them the largest contributor to the Clinton Foundation who is now on trial for Criminal Bribery and Corruption before Irelands [sic] Supreme Court has apparently asked US Secretary of State Clinton to NOT report to Myanmar Law Enforcement and Authorities that the largest contributor to her husbands [sic] Foundation is apparently attempting to apply for a Telecom License in Myanmar while on trial for Criminal Bribery and Corruption before Irelands [sic] Supreme Court.” This statement is false. Mr. O’Brien is not and has never been on trial facing a criminal charge, much less a criminal charge being heard by the Supreme Court of Ireland.”
The Clinton Foundation lists contributors to the Foundation and lists just five contributors who’ve donated more than USD 25m and they are “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fred Eychaner, Frank Giustra, Chief Executive Officer, The Radcliffe Foundation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and UNITAID. There is a “Denis J O’Brien” who contributed between USD1-5m, and Digicel’s Denis’s second name is “John” but that donation, although significant, wouldn’t be enough to qualify Denis as the “largest contributor” to the Clinton Foundation.
Digicel and Burma
The lawsuit states
“Digicel has an existing prospective relationship with the country of Burma. Digicel has presented a technical and commercial assessment for the process of expanding Burma’s existing telecom network to the Burmese government, and is now preparing to engage in a tender process for a mobile telecom license. Digicel has already made substantial investments to further its expected business relations with the country of Burma, including providing multi-year sponsorships to Burmese sports organizations, and is prepared to make an initial investment of in excess of [US] $1 billion to improve Burma’s telecom infrastructure. These efforts have resulted in brand awareness within Burma. Digicel is well-positioned as a competitive candidate for a telecom license. There is a significant probability of future economic benefit from a business relationship between Digicel and Burma because the potential mobile telecom market in Burma is extremely large. Burma has 60 million residents, less than two percent of whom are reported to currently have access to mobile phone and Internet services. Neighboring countries have usage rates varying from 57 to 100 percent, suggesting that a telecom license in Burma could result in Digicel’s acquiring tens of millions of new customers and potentially doubling the size of its worldwide customer base”
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In what is being called a “landmark case,” the Irish Daily Mail must pay Denis O’Brien, who controls Irish media group Independent News and Media, €150,000 in damages for libeling him in a 2010 article. The article in question “criticised his appearance” in TV interviews about his role and experience in Haiti after the earthquake, Irish broadcaster RTE reported.
According to RTE reports, O’Brien said the Daily Mail “accused him of hypocrisy motivated by self interest” and a “PR exercise.” The article, by Paul Drury, was titled “Moriarty about to report, no wonder O Brien is acting saintly in stricken Haiti.” It appears the article has been taken off the Mail’s website as iMediaEthics was unable to find the article online.
O’Brien’s libel case, which Irish Central described as a “landmark” case, was important for two reasons, RTE explained:
“It was the first major media defamation case to come before a jury at the High Court since the Defamation Act 2009 came into force.
“It is the first time a jury considered the new defence of honest opinion.”
There have been several high-profile libel lawsuits in Ireland in the past years, though, as iMediaEthics has written. This “honest opinion” defense means, according to the website of Irish law firm Brophy Solicitors:
“The defence of honest opinion will be upheld in an action for defamation if it can be proven that the statement consisted of an opinion that was honestly held. The courts will distinguish between statements of fact and opinion when this defence is raised.”
During the trial The Daily Mail’s attorney Oisin Quinn said, according to Irish Central,
“The right to express opinion is vital to society. This case is about the simple truth of the right to express an opinion. We want you to stand up for the right of someone to express his view.”
The columnist, Drury, added during the trial:
“I was offering a legitimate piece of opinion on a matter of enormous public interest that affected and continues to affect every one in this country.”
According to RTE, in this case, the Mail lost because the jury found the opinion was wrong:
While the jury agreed the piece was based on the honest opinion of the writer, they decided it was not an opinion based on fact and was not in the public interest.”
During the trial, O’Brien noted he didn’t seek help from the Irish Press Council, RTE reported, adding:
“Mr O’Brien replied that the Press Council did not have any teeth and he rejected the suggestion that a right of reply was the way to deal with the issue.”
The Press Council’s Miriam Laffan confirmed to iMediaEthics that O’Brien didn’t use the press council and said in response that reported comment that “Although we have not seen a transcript of the trial we have no reason to believe that this is not correct.”
Laffan also provided iMediaEthics with a press release from the Press Council of Ireland and the Press Ombudsman in response to O’Brien’s comments. The press release was signed by the council’s chairman Dáithí O’Ceallaigh and noted that while the council and ombudsman usually stay out of court cases, he wanted to “emphasise” certain things. He wrote:
“I have received a number of requests for a response to recent statements about the Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman which appear to be based on a lack of knowledge of the record of these institutions, and a lack of awareness of its effectiveness and relevance in the matter of disputes concerning the press.”
O’Ceallaigh went on to measure the “public confidence” in the council’s Code of Practice and regulation through “an independent system which editors do not control” by noting that “in the five years since it was established, it has received almost 2,000 complaints.” He added that “Nothing in our procedures prevents anyone having recourse to the courts.”
The Daily Mail may appeal the case, according to RTE.
iMediaEthics wrote last year when O’Brien claimed Independent Newspapers — the company he owns 21.6% of — had “biased campaigns” against him in order to “discredit” him. Shortly after O’Brien’s claims were made in a letter to the company, Independent News and Media’s CEO resigned.
iMediaEthics has written to the Daily Mail’s solicitors asking if it will appeal and why the article isn’t online anymore. We’ve also reached out to O’Brien’s solicitors asking:
Was the Mail required to take the article off its website because of the settlement?
Is the Mail required to publish an apology or correction?
I’ve seen reports describing this as a significant case because of its use of ‘honest opinion’ defense and because it was a jury trial? Is this accurate?
RTE reported that the Mail said O’Brien “refused a right of reply and looked for damages immediately after publication.” Two questions:
When did O’Brien seek damages or pursue legal action? Was the ‘right of reply’ offered after the column was published? (Link: http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/0208/366807-obrien-says-he-pays-significant-taxes-in-ireland/)
That same RTE article reported O’Brien opted against pursuing any options with the Irish Press Council. Is this accurate? Why specifically did O’Brien decide not to use the council?
We’ll update with any responses.
Hat Tip: the Journal
It centred on a 12 minutes 42 seconds phone call between the former Fine Gael Minister and Phelan, during which they discussed a sterling sum of £200,000 – £250,000 which the Sunday Independent says Lowry said he paid to Phelan, but said during the call: “I never declared it”.
The Moriarty Tribunal covered the investigation of payments to Lowry, whose company Garuda paid up to €1.2 million after a Revenue audit, while he also paid €200,000 in respect of settling his personal taxes.
This evening, Lowry released a statement about what he described as “extensive coverage of an alleged taped telephone conversation”.
My business dealings have been the subject of intense scrutiny over a prolonged period leading to several false and inaccurate reviews.
The payment referred to in the Sunday Independent was made by my company, Garuda Limited, on my behalf. That transaction was properly recorded and accounted for in the records and accounts of Garuda Limited. The payment referred to is fully tax compliant.
A deal made by Phelan on the sale of Doncaster Rovers was discussed during the tribunal, but it made limited findings on it due to the “suppression” of evidence, the paper says.
According to Lowry, the register at the UK Land Registry and company records “clearly show that I never had any direct or indirect shareholding or beneficial interest in Doncaster Rovers or its associated companies”.
I also confirm that I never had any material or beneficial interest in ‘Glebe Trust’.
The authors of the article said they had made multiple attempts to contact Lowry by text, phone calls, email and Facebook messages. Lowry said that he received no documentation on this matter before he left his Dáil office on Thursday.
I was un-contactable as I was travelling over the weekend. My constituency office is closed on a Saturday. The stake out at my property on Saturday and the incursion onto my private property was pointless.
The authors also said the paper handed over a copy of the recording and other documents and recordings to officers from the CAB.
Fianna Fáil Communications Spokesperson Michael Moynihan has called on the Dáil Deputy and former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry to quickly clarify the issues arising from the story.
Deputy Moynihan also called for the recording at the centre of the story to be forwarded to Judge Moriarty for examination.
A BILLIONAIRE has bought a luxury home close to Thomastown. He is heavily involved in the mobile phone business and it’s not Denis O’Brien.
Frank Sixt is one of the most successful money managers in the world and he is the new owner of Coolmore House, the former home of Niall Mellon whose property and insurance empire was a victim of the recession and who spent a fortune doing up the house. It is once again undergoing major refurbishment with a crane in situ. Security has been increased.
Mr Sixt, who is in his early 60s, has homes in Bermuda and Hong Kong, among other places. He has an extraordinary CV and went to university at 13 years of age.
He won a major music award in Quebec, Canada at 12 and has composed symphonies and wrote two musical scores for the movie “Bethune”.
He is a director of Cycad Investments Ltd and of Cycad Farm Ltd both with addresses at Coolmore House, Thomastown.
In February last year, Anne Marie Sixt, his wife, took over as secretary of the company, Omni Pro Corporate Consultants, Wexford Road Business Park, Carlow. She gave her address as Peak Road, Peak, Hong Kong, China.
The other directors of the company are Robert Finnegan, Dunmore Lodge, Dunmore East who is the CEO of the mobile phone company, 3 Ireland and Mr and Mrs Sixt’s son, Edward.
Mr Sixt, who designed Skype, is group finance director and executive director of Hutchison Whampoa Limited.
He is also Chairman and a non-executive Director of TOM Group Limited (an investment holding company); an Executive Director of Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Limited and Power Assets Holdings Limited (formerly Hongkong Electric Holdings Limited); a non-executive Director of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings Limited and Hutchison Port Holdings Management Pte. Limited as the trustee-manager of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust and a Director of Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Limited. Mr.
Sixt is also a Director of the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation.
Telecommunication company Digicel is to head to court on Tuesday to make its case in the ongoing issue with the Tax Administration Department (TAJ).
However, Digicel had secured a court injunction barring the TAJ from extracting information from its servers.
Digicel is contending that it has been supplying the required information to the tax officials over the past months.
In a statement issued late last evening, however, Digicel provided no specific word on the nature of the information it has been providing the tax authorities.
Digicel has also strongly refuted any form of wrongdoing emerging from what it calls a blatant witch-hunt and fishing expedition on the part of the TAJ.
It has also warned that it will use every possible legal avenue to pursue those involved in this matter whether directly or indirectly.
Originally Published: Saturday May 5, 2012 | 10:59 am
Tomorrow: Ten things to know about the Denis O’Brien/Siteserv transaction
A GATE for Whom | CARIBARENA ANTIGUA
The recent announcement of the GATE project was marketed as a “major”, “historic”, “game changing” initiative that would change the face of Antigua and Barbuda forever. However, just how effective and significant the GATE project will really be needs a more detailed breakdown.
The backbone of the GATE project is Digicel‘s soon-to-come 4G LTE network. Basically, 4G LTE is a network that allows phones, laptops, and any compatible device to get high speed internet anywhere. Whether you are at home, on the road, or at the beach, you can get high speed internet (assuming the provider has good coverage).
The primary advantage of 4G was for social interaction. Watching youtube videos, uploading photos to Facebook, and calling on Skype all from a smartphone drove the market appeal in the United States, giving birth to the 4G LTE technology. So all 4G LTE really does is provide fast access to the internet anywhere.
At Thursday’s announcement, the Government Assisted Technology Endeavour (GATE), consisting of four components, was basically various ways of implementing and leveraging Digicel’s 4G network.
One of the major components of the GATE program was “e-Education computer tablets and e-Education connectivity”. Putting big words aside, the Government are buying thousands of Tablets (like the iPad), hooking them up to 4G, and giving them to students. Minister of IT Dr. Edmond Mansoor said during the press conference that Digicel had donated $6.75 Million towards the Tablet fund, in which 6,000 tablets will initially be purchased.
This raises two important questions. Firstly, why Tablets, and secondly, why 4G?
The Minister said that the Tablets will be manufacturered by Samsung and compatible with 4G. However, tablets still do not support the same level of word processing, ease of use, and compatibility with e-learning programs that laptops do.
One Laptop per Child is a global organization, from which programs like the GATE project can receive fully capable laptops that are built tough and designed for educational purposes for the price of $200 USD. With $6.75 Million ECD, the Government could purchase approximately 12,500 such laptops.
So why use Tablets? Tablets are easy to break, incompatible with most if not all e-learning systems, and limited in terms of word processing and ease of use. Tablets are also expensive when compared to the One Laptop per Child Laptop, and offer less compatibility and features.
And now for the second question, why 4G?
Internet is not something new to Antigua and Barbuda. The Government do not need 4G technology to equip schools with laptops and internet, even if the entire campus has to be covered. Why didn’t the Ministry instead implement this solution with APUA‘s ADSL technology? Or LIME’s wireless internet?
Why did the Government choose to leave the schools without internet and devices, and wait for Digicel’s 4G network in order to purchase tablets that will work on Digicel’s network, when the technology has already been in Antigua and Barbuda for years?
Putting laptops in the hands of students, and giving them internet connectivity, is a fantastic initiative. But why has it been so delayed? Also, why is the Government building so heavily on Digicel?
After the Government experience with APC, in which many officials, notably Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer, promised that the Government would never rely on private groups for essential services, why is Digicel being given such a huge project?
Why isn’t APUA instead being harnessed? APUA have $15 Million worth of 4G LTE equipment awaiting installation in Antigua and Barbuda. Why don’t the Government instead support APUA’s attempts to establish a 4G network, and then the Government and people will “own” the 4G network?
The Minister said that, “the connectivity on an annual basis to these 6,000 students is valued at $14.3 million, and over the 5 years, the connectivity will be worth $71 million.” These Millions of dollars are going to Digicel, and by extension, leaving the country, when instead they can be payed to APUA, and circulate within the economy.
And Digicel’s services are not only being harnessed in schools, but also in “the Passport Office, Immigration Department, Lands and Survey Department, High Court Registry, Mt. St. John’s Medical Centre, and District Medical Clinics”.
While there is still debate about Private vs. Publicly-owned essential services, the Government took the position that essential services should be owned and controlled by the Government. So why are the Government deliberately breaking their own policy for Digicel, particularly in crucial areas such as the Immigration Department, Passport Office, and MSJMC?
“This is a major, major, major, major development in how Government partners with the private sector to propel Antigua and Barbuda forwards ladies and gentlemen,” were the exact words used by Minister Mansoor during the announcement.
Also, who is paying Digicel the $14.3 million a year for students to have 4G connectivity? The Government seem to be the party responsible, as the Minister said that this connectivity had been “pre-negotiated” between the Government and Digicel.
And if the Government fail to pay Digicel, will Digicel disconnect the students and various Government departments? Business is Business, and there is no reason or indication that Digicel will donate this connectivity.
Beyond the e-Education, there are more interesting points made by the Minister during his speech. He said, “1000 dongles will be provisioned, Mr. Minister of Finance, with 4G LTE connectivity, and we will make sure the top 1000 people in Government get trained in the use of this technology and more importantly will have access to the Government platform and have access to the internet 24/7, 365.”
A dongle is a device that looks like a USB flash drive, but allows you to connect to network or information. So what the Minister is saying that 1000 of these small devices will be given that will allow Government officials to connect to the 4G network and access the internet at any time.
There is very little complication in the use of dongles. Modern dongles are plug-and-play devices, requiring no interaction from the user. So what training the persons will need to receive, beyond connecting the dongle to a USB port, is unclear. Further, all these devices do is give Government officials or workers access to the internet, so unless there is a powerful online platform for them to work on, the dongles will probably be used for Youtube and Facebook.
The term “e-Government“, which was tossed around carelessly during the announcement, doesn’t refer to Government officials having 4G on their laptops or devices. e-Government solutions involve computerizing of whole Ministries. Why isn’t the police force computerized? The DCA? Is this Ministry of Finance computerized? Why can’t people go online and see all the active projects and costs that the Government is currently involved in?
These are some example of true e-Government technology. Why don’t the Ministry spend time in developing and computerizing the Government and deploying real-world, effective solutions? It seems the Ministry is too busy finding ways to get people on Digicel’s 4G network to engage in any of these crucial development tasks.
The Government seems to be over-stressing and exaggerating the uses of 4G networks, and while it could be said that the GATE initiative is a good concept, there are many issues and questions that need to be answered.
I wonder does a little bit of corruption enter into the equation somewhere along the line ?
Tomorrow: O’Brian and Digicel Never far from Controversy Islands Business – Business: ENEMIES AT THE GATE –PNG TELIKOM
O’Brian and Digicel Never far from Controversy – Haiti, Digicel National Fund for Education smells fishy
MIAMI, USA (defend.ht) – President Michel Martelly told the Haitian Diaspora community in Miami that the National Fund for Education, established in May 2011, had accumulated $16 million [US] and not a penny of it had been touched, although in January of 2012, Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien said the fund had collected $20 million [US], and in October 2011, the then-Minister of Education said the fund had $28 million [US].
The Miami Herald reported about Michel Martelly’s visit to Miami Monday December 10 and made this citing:
Martelly said $16 million has been raised since the tax was introduced in May 2011, and “we haven’t touched one penny of it.”
But on January 26, 2012, Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien was asked at his radio station NewsTalk about the National Fund for Education. O’Brien said:
“… just before the inauguration of President Martelly he brought the mobile phone operators together and said we want to bring a new tax on in-bound calls so that American people ringing-in or European people ringing-in Haiti there will be a 5 cents tax collected by the operators in Haiti and we agreed immediately.”
“This money now is in the Central Bank and it’s part of the money being used to send children back to school for the first time… it’s raised probably now at this stage, about $20 million.”
Take note, that Denis O’Brien also said at this interview in January that the tax had initially slowed down the volume of calls but now the volume of calls were back to where they were before the tax.
Two weeks before this interview, Digicel Haiti sent out a press note on the FNE stating that its contribution to the fund as of the end of December 2011 was $13 million [US]. Other mobile carriers at the time also made contributions and money was also being collected on money transfers for the FNE, the other contributions totaled about $10 million [US] in January 2012.
Further raising questions was an October 2011 declaration by President Martelly’s Counselor on Education Gaston Mercier who reported that $28 million [US] had been collected.
Defend Haiti projects that the National Fund for Education should have $136 million [US]. DH is using the figure of $8.5 million [US] per month given at the launch of the FNE that was attended by Digicel Haiti, NatCom and Voila CEOs, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representative Bashire Lamine, and International Monetary Fund representative in Haiti, Bouleau Loko.
The National Fund for Education still to this day is illegal in Haiti. It is an unlawful tax that was imparted without the authorization of Parliament.
The administration says none of the FNE money is being used to fund education, in fact, they say none has been used at all while continuing to promote it as the reason for the free education program in Haiti which, in fact, existed years before Martelly began running for office.
Digicel, which has a public perception that it financed the campaign of Michel Martelly, has a heavy hand in the National Fund for Education that is illegal in Haiti. It is believed by many that the fall of Digicel’s main competitor, Voila, was due to the implementation of the tax.
Denis O’Brien, Digicel’s CEO, has been the subject of multiple corruption and bribery scandals in other countries in the past.
01.27.2012: Michel Martelly and Denis O’Brien in cahoots.
Tomorrow: O’Brian and Digicel Never far from Controversy – A Gate for Whom
I often wonder if O’Brian’s operation motto is, “who do we reach? What do we pay?”
One suspects when it comes to cutting a deal the bold Denis may have more than just have a passing acquaintance with *P2P etiquette.
March 2010, a judicial tribunal found that a former minister for communications, Michael Lowry, “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone license competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found that O’Brien made two payments to Lowry, in 1996 and 1999, totaling approximately £500,000, and supported a loan of Stg£420,000 given to Lowry in 1999. In his 2,348-page report, Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty found that the payments from O’Brien were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr. Lowry” during the licence process, acts which benefited Esat Digifone. In effect, O’Brien was trading in influence or ‘legal corruption’
The Moriarty Report states that it is ‘beyond doubt’ that Michael Lowry imparted substantive information to Denis O’Brien that was ‘of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence’.
It states that documentation, which contained ‘sensitive information’, was found in files in the possession of Esat Digifone. The report states it is unable to conclude how the company obtained the information on the weighting matrix adopted by the project group.
The report states that Michael Lowry displayed ‘an appreciable interest’ in the process and had ‘irregular interactions with interested parties’ at what it terms ‘most sensitive stages’.
It also found that Mr. Lowry made his preferences on the leading candidates known.)
Forbes magazine said of O’Brian
“Despite coups, corruption, and kidnappings, Denis O’Brien keeps pouring money into the world’s poorest, most violent countries. His bet: Give phones to the masses and they will fight your enemies for you.
Is it just one of those oddities of life that O’Brian just happens to likes doing business where corruption is endemic?
History would suggest that this is no mere coincidence.
Let us look at how some of the countries that Digicel operates in, and see how they stack up in terms of corruption
This first figure is the ranking position of the country. The number of countries measured is 176
The Corruption Perceptions Index scores countries on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). While no country has a perfect score, score below 50, indicate serious corruption problems.
Haiti sits in 165th position, with a corruption index of 19
Papua New Guinea, 150 -25
Guyana, 133- 28
Jamaica 83- 38
Panama, 83- 38
El Salvador 83 – 38
Trinidad & Tobago 80- 39
Possible soon to be added to the Digicel list is Myanmar sitting in 172nd position with a corruption index of 16
O’Brien’s Jamaica-headquartered company, Digicel Group, began offering cheap cell phone service recently from Papua New Guinea. Razor wire and half-dozen guards carrying shotguns and pistols protect the Digicel office in Papua New Guinea.
The murder rate in this Pacific hellhole is one of the highest in the world. Corruption is also rife in PNG
Bermuda-incorporated Digicel was founded in 2001 and has operations in 28 countries in small markets in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. Its main market is Jamaica where it has about a 75% market share and in June was fined by the regulator for anti-competitive behavior. In May, the Jamaican tax authorities raided its Jamaican offices.
*Pay to play
Tomorrow we will have a look at O’Brian’s good friend President Michel Martelly of Haiti that upstanding man of impeccable honesty