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Turkcell takes on MTN on $4.2 bn lawsuit, accuses telecom giant of illegal dealings, offering bribes

(L-R) Acting MTN Uganda CEO Mr. Gordian Kyomukama, Company chairman, Charles Mbire and MTN group president and CEO Rob Shuter in Uganda recently. (PHOTO/FILE)

KAMPALA/JOHANNESBURG – Turkcell, which took legal action against MTN related to the disputed mobile license in Iran in 2004, said it is anticipating a verdict on the $4.2 billion lawsuit in South Africa this year.

Turkcell did not receive a license in Iran despite becoming the highest bidder in the tender for the first private GSM license of Iran in 2004. Iran gave the GSM license to South African telecoms group MTN though Turkcell met all requirements.

Turkcell claimed that MTN bribed former ambassador to Iran and filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit in South Africa in 2013 over the disputed license. The judiciary decided to go on a trial involving allegations that MTN bribed Iranian and South African government officials four years late in June 2017, delayed by MTN’s objections.

Simultaneously HAWKS, South Africa’s special unit against organized crime, has conducted an investigation on MTN and a number of government officials since 2004, based on Turkcell’s bribery claims.

Yusuf Saloojee, the former South Africa ambassador to Iran was arrested in the last February and later he was released on bail.

The allegations on Mr. Yusuf Saloojee included receiving a bribe from MTN during the process of giving the Irancell tender to MTN. The South African police announced that Saloojee, now a retiree, had received 1.4 million rands (approximately $100.000) and used it to buy a house in Pretoria.

Mr. Saloojee was suspiciously pronounced dead on March 18.

MTN Group accused of illegal dealings, offering bribes

“The seizure of documents during the investigation, the criminal case, the arrest and death of Ambassador Saloojee proves Turkcell’s claims,” Serhat Demir, executive vice president of Legal and Regulation at Turkcell, said.

MTN faces problems in Uganda and Nigeria as well. MTN’s Uganda CEO was deported over national security concerns. MTN Nigeria was in the news because of unregistered SIM cards and corruption allegations concerning dividend payments.

Also read: MTN woes not to end soon as govt hikes license fees

The Nigerian Communication Commission had fined MTN $5.2 billion for unregistered SIM card records in 2015.

The Central Bank of Nigeria in 2018 claimed that MTN had repatriated dividend $8.1 billion out of the country and demanded the money be brought back.

Nigerian officials also claimed that MTN had approximately $2 billion unpaid taxes.

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