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Two-week wait for judge's ruling in Caricel-Gov't battle

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

The Government and Symbiote Investments Limited will have to endure a two-week wait on a judge's decision that could significantly shape the battle over the mobile telephone licence that the United States and other international partners want taken from the Jamaican company.

After three days of hearing ended yesterday, Supreme Court Judge Leighton Pusey told lawyers for the Government and the company, which trades as Caricel, that he will hand down his decision on January 24.

Symbiote wants court orders that would bar the Government from revoking the company's spectrum licence. The application is challenging a letter from the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) advising of an investigation relating to the cellular licence.

Symbiote feels that the probe is leading to the revocation of the $2.7 billion licence signed by the Andrew Holness administration in September. The previous administration gave conditional approval 10 days before the February 25, 2016 elections.


Advised to revoke licence


National Security Minister Robert Montague reportedly wrote to Technology Minister Andrew Whealtey, under whose portfolio the SMA falls, advising him to take steps to revoke the licence.

The foreign affairs ministry has refused to confirm or deny reports of Jamaican steps overseas to allay fears. "It would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment on this matter for several reasons, including the fact that it is currently before the courts," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The Holness administration is being pressured to revoke the licence on the basis of so-called "adverse traces" involving George Neil, a player in Symbiote.

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has declined to comment. "Unfortunately, the committee cannot comment publicly on this issue," read an email from Jack Langer, the director of communications in the office of Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee.

That committee, in a 2012 report, warned the US government and companies against doing business with Huawei Technologies, the global Chinese telecommunications manufacturing company that's a major supplier of services to Symbiote. The US has been concerned about Chinese government influence on Huawei, while there have been questions about Symbiote's 'true' owners and funders.