Anil Ambani, Reliance Communications (RCom) chairman (pictured), could face a jail term after the Supreme Court of India found him guilty of wilfully failing to pay INR5.5 billion ($77.3 million) to Ericsson in service charges.
In a statement, India’s top court found Ambani guilty of contempt of court and demanded he and two RCom directors pay the Swedish vendor INR4.5 billion within four weeks or risk a three-month jail term.
The under-fire operator responded by stating it respected the ruling and planned to comply. Ericsson also welcomed the decision.
Ericsson, which has called for Ambani’s arrest, took legal action against the operator in 2018 over unpaid service charges, with the row deepening in recent months as RCom continued to miss payment deadlines.
The vendor has reportedly filed three contempt of court petitions against Ambani, requesting that the Supreme Court freeze Ambani’s personal assets and prevent him leaving the country.
Ericsson is seeking payment for more than $70 million in service charges for a deal it struck in 2014 to manage and operate RCom’s network.
RCom first missed a deadline to pay up in December 2018, stating it was waiting for approval to sell assets to Reliance Jio before it was able to make the payment. It then made a partial payment of more than INR1 billion in January.
However, last month RCom also confirmed its deal with Jio had failed, resulting in it commencing insolvency proceedings.