MTN denies intimidating former employee

MTN on Monday (4 June) denied any suggestion that it intimidated former employee Chris Kilowan, in an effort to prevent his testimony against the group in a US court.

Turkish mobile operator Turkcell has launched a $4.2 billion lawsuit in a US court accusing MTN of bribing its way to the Iranian licence and alleging human rights abuses. MTN denies the charges.

On the weekend, The City Press newspaper reported that a former MTN executive, Chris Kilowan admitted to bribing South Africa’s former ambassador to Iran “to thank him for assisting the mobile giant”.

The paper said it had a transcript of Kilowan’s evidence before a US court a month ago. In this transcript “he implicates himself and top MTN executives in underhanded dealings to acquire a multibillion-dollar mobile licence in the pariah state”.

The City Press noted that in his deposition to the US court, Kilowan also claimed he and his family’s lives were at risk and they were being followed by MTN spies.

Kilowan testified that he was approached by two private investigators, who claimed they were employed by MTN’s lawyers.

“MTN has done everything in its power to discredit me, to put the safety of my family at risk, to put my own safety at risk, to make allegations against me that are totally unfounded. And quite frankly, I am severely angry with MTN,” Kilowan said in court.

Paul Norman, group chief HR and corporate affairs officer at MTN said in a statement on Monday: “MTN notes the allegations made by Chris Kilowan in a recent deposition where he appeared as a witness for Turkcell in US court proceedings initiated against MTN. MTN strongly denies any suggestion that MTN, or its representatives, intimidated Mr Kilowan in relation to his role in these proceedings. Mr Kilowan’s testimony showed that he is not a reliable witness. He is a disgruntled former employee, who has admitted that he had been paid by Turkcell for his role in the claims against MTN. In his recent deposition, his evidence was discredited in a number of major respects.

“Mr Kilowan’s outlandish allegations also reflect Turkcell’s overall approach to the litigation, in making sensationalist claims with no legal merit. MTN continues to believe that the US courts have no jurisdiction to hear Turkcell’s claims and will shortly be filing its motion to dismiss Turkcell’s claim in the US proceedings,” Norman said.

MTN added that in parallel with the defence of the US litigation, the Hoffmann investigation into Turkcell’s allegations continues. The group said that Kilowan was formally invited to provide evidence to the Hoffmann Committee on 19 March; however, he has refused to do so, preferring instead to give paid evidence in Turkcell’s US court proceedings. “Turkcell was also invited to provide evidence to the Hoffmann Committee investigation, but refused to cooperate,” it said.

The City Press also reported that Kilowan implicated another MTN executive in the bribing scandal, Irene Charnley, who allegedly “approved a bribe payment”.

Charnley and Yusuf “Jojo” Saloojee, South Africa’s former ambassador to Iran, denied any involvement in the deal.

In early afternoon trade on the JSE, shares in MTN declined 13 cents to R135.37.

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MTN denies intimidating former employee