By Karine Kalantarian
Greece’s OTE telecommunications giant intends to conduct an internal audit of its Armenian subsidiary ArmenTel, suspecting its embattled chief executive, Nikos Georgoulas, of mismanagement and financial improprieties, a senior ArmenTel source told RFE/RL on Friday.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said OTE wants to investigate allegations of fraud and unjustified expenditures by ArmenTel managers.
The reported plans to launch a financial inspection come amid a turmoil in the management of the Armenian telecom monopoly which has led to the sacking of its two senior Greek executives. Vassilis Kapsis and Andreas Vorvolakos, ArmenTel’s commercial and technical directors, are said to have been fired by Georgoulas after disagreeing with his decision to expand the company’s mobile phone network.
ArmenTel began last month attracting thousands of new subscribers, resuming sales of its popular prepaid phone cards. But its apparent failure to expand the network capacity has seriously worsened the quality of wireless phone connection. Some 25,000 cards have already sold. But only 10,000 new subscribers have been connected to the highly overloaded network.
The ArmenTel source claimed that Georgoulas has not fulfilled a pledge, made in August, to install new wireless equipment within a month. He said ArmenTel’s Greek contractors have not yet delivered it to Armenia and are facing no penalties for the delay.
Speaking to RFE/RL earlier this month, Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian accused the Greek-owned company of mismanaging the underdeveloped mobile phone sector, saying that the sales of its so-called “easycards” are illegal.
ArmenTel is also embroiled in an increasingly acrimonious row with the country’s Internet service providers. Many of them have had their external communications links cut off by the telecom monopoly for an alleged illegal use of Internet channels, a charge they deny. Over the past year ArmenTel has faced about 30 lawsuits filed by the Internet providers and lost most of them.
“ArmenTel has stolen the future of this sector in Armenia,” charged Vahram Mkhitarian of the Armenian Computer Center.
The issue was discussed on Thursday at a meeting between Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and representatives of the Internet firms.