Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, former chief executive officer (CEO) of Robi Axiata Limited, has filed a lawsuit for a gigantic compensation of Tk227 crore against the country's second-largest telecom operator.
He claimed Tk16 crore in his unpaid job benefits, while the rest is for the damages he suffered for the alleged undue retrospective termination long after the acceptance of his resignation in August last year, according to the court filing.
"My client was unfairly terminated by some vindictive board members and the then Axiata Group CEO on a retrospective basis. It was done to ruin his career, deprive him of job benefits," said Mahtab's lawyer Hasan Mohammed Shahnewaz Azim.
The case was filed with the Court of Dhaka's Joint District Judge on Monday (22 August).
"We are yet to receive any formal document either from the court or the person concerned in this regard. Hence, we are not in a position to comment on the issue," Robi Axiata in a written statement said, while contacted.
Mahtab served Robi Axiata between 2010 to 2021 – initially as its chief financial officer and then as chief operations officer. He was the CEO of the company from 2016 to 2021.
In August last year, he decided not to renew his job contract with the company after the tenure ended on 31 October 2021, according to a Robi statement then.
The board accepted his resignation in three days.
Meanwhile on 7 October, before the end of his CEO tenure, the company launched an internal investigation against him.
In May this year, after the probe, the company terminated Mahtab on a retrospective basis, according to court documents.
In the meantime, the company paid nearly Tk3.8 crore to Mahtab, out of over Tk20 crore it owed as his job benefits. Citing the termination the company refused to pay him the remaining amount of over Tk16 crore, according to lawyer Shahnewaz Azim.
When contacted, Mahtab Uddin Ahmed told The Business Standard that the consequence was worse for him as it damaged his reputation in the industry.
"The ill-motive termination after the so-called internal probe ruined my reputation in the job market. As a result, I have lost many job opportunities and the company should be held responsible for that," the plaintiff added.
He claimed Tk110.7 crore compensation, a ten-fold of his last annual pay package in Robi Axiata, for his opportunity losses, Tk50 crore for reputational damages, and another Tk50 crore for mental agony he has been going through.
The company itself, former CEO of its parent Axiata Group Dato' Mohd Izzadin Idris, Robi Chairman Thayaparan S Sangarapillai, Robi Directors Hans Wijayasuriya and Vivek Sood have been named as the defendants in the case.
Secretary of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, chairmen of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, and the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission have been made proforma defendants.
27 September is the next hearing date for the case.
According to insiders, the internal investigation committee blamed him for treating some network development expenses as capital expenditures instead of operational expenses.
It also alleged him of overstating key performance indicators through the accounting treatment and blamed him for some issues with edotco Bangladesh, a cell phone network infrastructure company owned by Axiata.
Mahtab, while talking to TBS, said Robi procured network equipment under a package including free maintenance for a period. "It was clearly a capital expenditure as benefits of that have been being enjoyed for years."
"The Robi CFO in continuous consultation with the group CFO, and also the auditor supported the accounting treatment, while the committee found only me to blame for," he said.
"It was a consequence of some internal discord with some Group level executives over many issues during my tenure as the Robi CEO. Obviously, their stance was not supportable."
"I have e-mail records of their threats for revenge," he claimed.
Robi emerged as the second largest cellphone operator following the 2016 merger between Robi Axiata and Airtel Bangladesh.
Mahtab led the company in its 2020 initial public offering (IPO), the largest in the history of the local capital market.
The company swings between meagre profits and losses compared to its gigantic capital size, while its competitor Grameen Phone is a big profit earner for years.
Robi shares having a face value of Tk10 each closed at Tk30 on the Dhaka Stock Exchange on Tuesday, while the effective price floor on individual scripts did not allow Robi shares to go further down.