Orange denies Tunisia corruption allegations
European mobile operator Orange said on Friday allegations that it had obtained its 3G licence in Tunisia by corruption were based on erronous information and that it was studying its legal options.
In an article published late on Thursday, the news website owni.fr accused Orange of not having paid 130 million euros ($182 million) to the Tunisian state in 2009 for the license, but instead invested in a company owned by a daughter of now toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and her husband Marwan Mabrouk.
Orange Tunisia, which has 800,000 clients, is 51 percent owned by Mabrouk, who figures among the 110 people whose property was seized by Tunisia's transitional authorities at the end of February.
In a statement released on its Twitter feed, Orange said the article was based "on erronous information that is a serious attack on the reputation of the group."
"Taking into account the seriousness of the accussations, Orange is studying all of its legal options to defend its interests and image in order to be able to calmly pursue its activities in Tunisia."
Orange said it views its 49 percent stake in Orange Tunisia as a long-term investment.
Before the release of the owni.fr article, Orange chief executive Stephane Richard denied any corruption in the acquisition of the licence, saying together with their partner they had paid 130 million euros for it.
Overall 260 million euros were invested to acquire the licence and roll out the 3G network, he added.
© 2011 AFP