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T-Mobile Hit With RICO Charges

UPDATED: The battle for control of the Polish mobile telecom market has moved from the courts of Europe to a Seattle federal courthouse.

Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, French telecom and entertainment giant Vivendi filed suit Monday against T-Mobile, the U.S. unit of its long-time German rival Deutsche Telecom (DT).

The suit charges T-Mobile and Poland's Elektrim joined forces to steal Vivendi's $2.5 billion investment in one of that country's top telecom players.

Zygmunt Solorz-Zak, who controlled Elektrim and was one of Vivendi's partners in its investment in Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa (PTC), was also named in the suit along with T-Mobile Deutschland Gmbh and Deutsche Telecom.

Vivendi chair Jean-Bernard Levy told reporters the French telecom firm plans to call T-Mobile and DT executives to testify about what it claims were e-mail and phone conversations which point to a scheme to wrest control of PTC, another leading telecommunications firm in Poland.

In the 32-page lawsuit, Vivendi charges the defendants "engaged in a massive multi-year racketeering conspiracy to illegally seize PTC."

T-Mobile and the others named in the suit "have now succeeded in wrenching PTC away from Vivendi and have deprived Vivendi of its $2.5 billion investment," according to the complaint.

"T-Mobile induced our partner to secretly conspire against us," Levy said.

For its part, T-Mobile USA refused comment. "T-Mobile USA does not comment on pending litigation," a spokesperson told internetnews.com. DT did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Vivendi charged T-Mobile and Solorz-Zak colluded in a "pattern of racketeering activity over U.S. wires as part of an unlawful scheme to take over an enterprise, PTC, and corrupt another enterprise, Elektrim."

Levy gave an analogy of buying a home with a partner then finding himself on the street and his name removed from the title.

"Vivendi asks the court for a simple remedy: give us back our money or our PTC shares," he said in a statement. "Fairness and justice must prevail."

The dispute over ownership of PTC has raged since 1999. Vivendi owns 25 percent via a holding company with Elektrim the minority partner. Elektrim holds it is full owner of the holding company.

After not receiving an answer from DT on a September offer to buy its German rival's holdings in PTC, in October, Vivendi dismissed DT's claim it had purchased Elektrim's stake in PTC.



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