Robi Axiata yesterday agreed to pay unpaid value-added tax and supplementary duty amounting to Tk 18.72 crore, bringing an end to the tug-of-war with the National Board of Revenue.
Earlier on February 26, the revenue authority froze the bank accounts of the country's second largest mobile operator on allegations of dodging of Tk 18.72 crore in VAT and SD.
Robi straightaway filed a writ petition challenging the NBR's decision to freeze its bank accounts and the High Court on February 27 gave the verdict in its favour.
The government then filed a petition at the Appellate Division seeking a stay on the High Court order of unblocking Robi's bank accounts.
Yesterday, a four-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, stayed the High Court order for three days and freezing Robi's bank accounts again.
The Supreme Court verdict convinced Robi to concede defeat: the operator pledged to deposit the full amount to the state coffer soon.
“We have requested banks to make the accounts operational after they promised us they would pay the tax soon,” said Md Matiur Rahman, commissioner of LTU-VAT, yesterday. Contacted, Ekram Kabir, vice president for communications and corporate responsibility at Robi, said: “The issue has been resolved.”
The LTU-VAT had blocked Robi's bank accounts after a team led by the LTU additional commissioner inspected the mobile operator's corporate office on February 7 and came away with a pile of relevant documents.
After poring over the documents, the NBR field office came to the conclusion that the mobile operator had unpaid SD and VAT on space rental, SIM sales and interconnection service it had provided to state-run land phone operator Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd.
The total amount was Tk 18.72 crore, which Robi 'evaded' by not paying the tax on time, said the LTU-VAT.
The field office then employed a provision of the VAT Act 1991 that empowers a VAT official of the rank of an assistant commissioner and above to freeze bank accounts for certain days. The mobile operator on February 26 denied the allegation, saying that it is a longstanding dispute with the NBR over VAT.
The NBR's field office, however, disagreed that there was any dispute surrounding the issue. “The other operators are paying the VAT and SDs on the same items, but Robi has not paid,” Rahman said earlier.
Last month, the LTU demanded Tk 924 crore as unpaid VAT from Robi from January 2013 to December 2016.