Monday, January 02, 2006

Serbia Police Search for Ex-Mobtel Exec

Monday January 2, 12:03 pm ET
Serbia Police Issue Search Warrant for Patrick Harpur, Former Mobtel Executive
BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) -- Police issued a search warrant Monday for a former executive of Serbia-Montenegro's main mobile phone provider, Mobtel, after he allegedly ignored an information request on a deal with a Kosovo telecommunications company.
Patrick Harpur, who was managing director from mid-2003 until May, had declined to give information to investigators about a 2003 agreement under which Mobtel sold its rights for Kosovo to a company in the province, police said.

The government last week revoked Mobtel's license over the allegedly illegal contract with the Kosovo company, Mobikos, and appointed rival and partly state-run mobile phone provider, Telekom, to manage Mobtel until the issues are resolved.

It declared the 2003 deal illegal, saying the Belgrade-based Mobtel had violated regulations and "jeopardized national security" by selling part of its license without asking for necessary government permission.

Harpur responded by sending a statement to Belgrade-based Beta news agency later Monday, saying he was "shocked" by the warrant.

Without specifying his current whereabouts of whether he would talk to the investigators, Harpur insisted that Mobtel never sold its license concerning Kosovo but "merely made an agreement on technical cooperation" to ensure normal operation in the southern province that has been an international protectorate since 1999.

The government's claim "is a blatant fabrication," said Harpur, adding that he left Mobtel in May 2005 after the company's founder, Serbia's millionaire Bogoljub Karic, sold his stake to an Austrian consortium.

Harpur added that Mobtel's license applied "to the whole territory of Serbia and, according to all international provisions, Kosovo is still Serbian territory -- unless the government thinks differently."

Kosovo has been run by United Nations and NATO since 1999, when Serbia's military campaign against ethnic Albanian separatists was halted by NATO bombing. Talks on a final status for Kosovo are expected this year.

Mobtel was co-founded by Karic and Serbia's state-run PTT telephone company. They are locked in a dispute over who owned the majority share, to be resolved through international arbitration in Switzerland.

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