MTN Former CEO Denies Bribes To Iran, South Africa

The former chief executive of MTN Group denied on Sunday that he authorised bribes to Iranian and South African government officials in return for a cellular licence in Iran.
"I can state quite categorically that during my tenure as group CEO of MTN no bribes were authorised or paid by the MTN Group to any South African or Iranian government officials to secure the mobile licence in Iran," Phuthuma Nhleko said in a statement.
Turkish mobile operator Turkcell this week filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit against MTN in a U.S. federal court, accusing it of using bribery and other corrupt acts to win its licence in Iran in 2004.
Nhleko, who was then the CEO of MTN, is named in the suit, as well as current CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, who was then the chief operating officer.
The suit also charges that MTN lobbied the South African government to take a soft stance on Iran's nuclear programme and provide Tehran with military equipment in exchange for the licence, which was initially awarded to Turkcell.
MTN has said the case is without legal merit, while Pretoria has said its foreign policy is independent.
"MTN's conduct was not unlawful or corrupt and MTN was certainly not in a position where it could influence or fetter the decisions made by the South African government or any other sovereign state," Nhleko said.
MTN has set up an independent committee led by a UK legal scholar to investigate Turkcell's claims. It has said Turkcell has refused to cooperate with the investigation.
MTN has a 49 percent stake in Iranian unit Irancell, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of its annual revenue.

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