March 26, 2021 19:11

The unlawful owner of Caucasus Online openly admits that he intentionally violated the Georgian legislation

The Communications Commission is dismayed by the recent statement from Temur Tagiev, the representative of the unlawful owner of Caucasus Online Nasib Hasanov, openly admitting that Mr. Hasanov intentionally violated the Georgian legislation and defied the Communications Commission, as he apparently saw no legal way of purchasing the Black Sea Fibre-Optic Cable System. Mr. Hasanov’s disregard of the Georgian legislation is infuriating and insulting. Temur Tagiev openly told the media that as soon as the amendments to the Law on Electronic Communications came into effect, the Azerbaijani company proceeded on an expedited timetable, as they knew that they would be unable to break the law and purchase the remaining 51% stake in Caucasus Online with the special manager in place. 

In addition, information about the unlawful purchase of the 51% stake in Caucasus Online by Nasib Hasanov in August 2020 can be found in the documentation submitted by his company to the Court of Arbitration.  

Nasib Hasanov was well aware of his duties under the Georgian legislation prior to unlawfully purchasing his 49% stake in the company. This is evidenced by the fact that in the process of acquiring Caucasus Online on 18 January 2019, under the terms of the purchase agreement he personally assumed the duty and responsibility to comply with the legislative requirements by obtaining the Commission’s approval for the transaction. 

Furthermore, Mr. Hasanov has made contradictory statements, as he claimed in 2019 and 2020 that he was unfamiliar with the Georgian legal requirements. Therefore, his later statements about being under no obligation to obtain the Commission’s approval were full of inaccuracies and deception.  

The Communications Commission first initiated administrative proceedings in relation to the unlawful purchase of the 49% stake in Caucasus Online in October 2019. Since then, the Commission fined Caucasus Online 6 times for violating the legislation and demanded that the company revert its shareholding to the pre-sale status quo. Although the company paid the fines, including three penalties of GEL 270,000 each, it refused to comply with the Commission’s instruction to reverse the sale of the shares. 

In parallel tofailing to rectify the legislative violations, Caucasus Online applied to the Communications Commission on 13 June 2020 with the request to approve the sale of the remaining 51% in the company. The Commission asked Caucasus Online to provide additional documentation in the form of updated information about its beneficiary owners. Once the company submitted this document, it became evident that the Caucasus Online had not complied with the Commission’s instructions regarding the reversal of the sale of the 49% stake. It should be noted that a full and proper review of the issue regarding the sale of the shares of the company’s beneficiary owners was impossible, as the 49% stake has been purchased unlawfully. Accordingly, the Communications Commission refused the company’s aforementioned request for approval. As mentioned earlier, Nasib Hasanov proceeded to ignore the Commission’s decision and unlawfully purchased the remaining 51% of the company, which he now admits openly. 

Moreover, Mr. Hasanov formally applied to the Communications Commission for approval of the purchase of 100% of the company on 10 September 2020, after he had already illegally purchased the 51% stake in August that year. Once again, this demonstrates his complete disregard for the Georgian legislation and is completely unacceptable. 

After one year of administrative proceedings, the Communications Commission had the power to revoke the authorisation of Caucasus Online. Since such a move would have resulted in 2.5 million subscribers being left without telecommunications services, as well as jeopardising internet access for millions of people in neighbouring countries, the Commission appointed a special manager to Caucasus Online instead of revoking the company’s authorisation. 

It is also important to note that Caucasus Online has been operating on the Georgian telecom market for more than a year with unlawfully owned shares. The illegal transaction could affect the establishment of a regional technology hub in Georgia, as the altered service strategy that comes with the change of beneficiary owners can cause significant changes and irreversible negative consequences for the development of the  telecommunications sector of the country. These threats have been amplified by the open confession from Nasib Hasanov’s representative regarding the intentional violation of the Georgian legislation.

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