US investigators arrive in Senegal to resolve Sudatel mobile licence dispute

4 Dec 2012

Agence Ecofin claims that two American investigators with a specialisation in the area of the financing of terrorism and fraud/embezzlement, have arrived in Dakar to begin a review of the third mobile licence award to Sudatel Senegal (trading as Expresso). Government spokesman Abdou Latif Coulibal reportedly confirmed the two men’s arrival, saying that they will investigate whether or not there were any irregularities in the supposed payment of a ‘retro-commission’ of XOF20 billion (USD39.6 million) under the award. Although TeleGeography is not able to confirm the allegations, the Americans’ interest is said to stem from the fact that Sudatel Senegal – owned by UAE-based Expresso Telecom Group Limited, itself a 75%-owned subsidiary of Sudanese telecoms operator Sudatel – is on a blacklist held by the US Department of the Treasury. It is alleged that in 2007, Sudatel and 30 other companies were identified as having ‘led, supported, maintained and funded criminal activities in Darfur’.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that in January 2009 Senegal welcomed a third mobile network operator in the shape of Sudatel Senegal (Expresso). The operator, which initially launched over a CMDA2000 technology platform provided by Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE to rival the GSM platforms of Orange and Tigo, was awarded a comprehensive 20-year telecoms services licence in the country in September 2007. Its winning bid of XOF96 billion trumped rival bids from eleven other companies, including the Kuwaiti-owned Zain Group and Bintel of Saudi Arabia.

Senegal, Expresso Telecom (Senegal)