KPNQwest's eBone network teeters over the abyss

Banks accused of playing 'dirty games'...

Banks accused of playing 'dirty games'...

The sale of KPNQwest's European network, eBone, to UK consortium Oakley Investors has fallen through. As a result, eBone's network will be taken completely offline by 17:00 (BST) today after the banking group behind KPNQwest's financing, led by Citibank, upped its price on the sale from £25m to around £45m, putting Oakley out of the game. Graham Kinsey, a spokesman for eBone's network operation centre (NOC) in Belgium, said: "The banks have done what they've been doing all along - playing dirty games. The Oakley guys went to Amsterdam yesterday to talk to the banks and were totally shocked by their demands. "The banks have no options any more and neither does eBone. We're being shut down right now. The banks have screwed us over one last time and cut their throats too - they'll be liable for all KPNQwest's debt now." Ian Walker, primary diagnostic engineer at the eBone NOC, confirmed Kinsey's statement. He said: "We must finish shutting down the network by six o'clock [Beligian time] this evening. I'm being swamped by calls from customers. I've just had one guy on the phone in tears. "I know of about 1,000 customers who are going out of business because of this. The banks have shown a complete lack of respect for our customers." On Monday evening, Kinsey was phoned by a representative from Oakley who expressed his disappointment at the banks' behaviour and told him the deal was off. All NOC staff were ordered out of the building by security at around 18:00 (BST) on Monday and were not allowed to enter again until one hour before the shut down was set to begin this morning. Michael Parkinson, technical director at KPNQwest customer IntelNet, said: "I can confirm that the network is going down - I'm watching it disappear as we speak. The banks are at fault here. They should be prosecuted. Some of our customers will suffer over the next 24 hours as we put our backup facilities into place after being given just two hours notice of the shutdown." Kinsey added: "About 75 per cent of our 42,000 customers are still connected to the network and about 50 per cent are still reliant on it. I expect there will be a general slowing down of the internet over the next 24 hours as even ISPs that aren't connected to the eBone network will be swamped with other traffic." No one from Citibank's consortium was available to comment.