Well, this doesn’t look good: Turkcell is suing MTN for $4,2 billion. Turkcell has decided to act on its claims that MTN bribed officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and South African leaders, and promised Iran weapons as well as UN votes, all in exchange for a licence to offer cellphone services in Iran.
These are some of the allegations, which stem from as far back as 2004, filed in a lawsuit against MTN in Washington yesterday.
Patton Boggs LLP, a Washington-based international law and lobbying firm, acting on behalf of Turkcell, alleges Turkcell was:
Upset by the loss of the open competition, [as well as the fact that] MTN sought to obtain illegally what it could not obtain through honest competition and thereafter embarked on a premeditated program of corruption through bribery and trading in influence.
[The license tender was] the largest new international telecommunications opportunity in the world and was known to involve the largest single investment opportunity into Iran since the 1979 Revolution.
Bloomberg explains some of the allegations in more detail:
MTN prevailed upon the South African government to abstain from three votes on Iran’s nuclear energy program at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 2005 and 2006, according to the complaint. The Iranian communications ministry allegedly told MTN it was withholding its license until it saw how South Africa voted at an upcoming IAEA meeting.
South Africa’s representative to the IAEA, Abdul Minty, abstained from an IAEA vote on Iran on Nov 24, 2005. The license was delivered three days later, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, MTN in August 2004 struck a deal with Ali Shamkhani, who was then Iran’s defense minister, to facilitate South African military cooperation and the delivery of defense equipment, including Denel AH-2 Rooivalk helicopters, encrypted military radios, sniper rifles, G5 howitzer artillery weapons, cannons, armored personnel carriers and radar technology. The list was set in a 2004 memorandum of understanding, which wasn’t included with the suit, according to the complaint.
MTN officials, including Nhleko, used their personal relationships with South Africa’s minister of defense at the time, Mosiuoa Lekota, to promise delivery of the elicit arms and technology in exchange for the license, the court papers allege. “This equipment was unavailable to Iran through legitimate means because of U.S. and international restrictions at the time,” Turkcell said in the papers. Lekota didn’t immediately respond to a message left on his mobile phone seeking comment today.
Last year, 2oceansVibe brought you this exclusive on weapons leaving Cape Town Harbour, so all of this seems highly plausible, one might say.
Thabo Mbeki is also implicated: Ali Larijani, who was then the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was dispatched to South Africa to remind Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president at the time, “that certain defense-related promises were made by the South African Minister of Defense in 2004 in exchange for which MTN was allowed to replace Turkcell in the Irancell consortium,” according to a highly confidential memo.
MTN said it would oppose the claims:
MTN continues to believe that there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claim and no basis for such a claim to be brought before a US court.
MTN shares dropped to their lowest level in three weeks as a result of the announcement yesterday, and it will be very interesting to watch how this case proceeds.
Earlier in March, MTN said that US courts would not have jurisdiction over such a case because the:
Accusations involve conduct alleged to have taken place in South Africa and Iran, and have no connection to the United States.
They have established a committee of non-executive directors to investigate Turkcell’s allegations. But, they’re probably doing more than that now, one would imagine.
Read more about the damaging claims against MTN HERE.
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