The Democratic Alliance (DA) says that an investigation by elite crime-fighting unit the Hawks, into MTN Group for alleged corruption, would take time as part of it would be conducted outside South Africa.
The Hawks confirmed that it will investigate the mobile operator on allegations of corruption relating to its license in Iran.
MTN owns 49% of Irancell, the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence.
Turkish mobile operator Turkcell has launched a $4.2 billion lawsuit in a US court accusing MTN of bribing its way to the Iranian licence and alleging human rights abuses. MTN denies the charges.
David Maynier MP, DA shadow minister of defense said in a statement on Tuesday (5 June) that general Anwa Dramat, head of the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), confirmed a formal probe into Iran bribe claims.
“On 30 March 2012 I wrote to the Hawks requesting an investigation into allegations of corruption relating to the MTN Group securing a mobile operating licence in Iran.
“This followed allegations, which emerged in the United States District Court of Columbia in Washington DC, that Phuthuma Nhleko, former chief executive officer of the MTN Group, with the assistance of a small group of senior employees, engaged in what was referred to as “unprecedented corrupt acts”, in order to win the mobile operating licence in Iran, in a scheme known as “Project Snooker”.
Maynier noted that the allegations, which remain unproven, include inter alia the claim that:
- a payment of U$ 400 000 was made by MTN to Iran’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Javid Ghorbanoghli for assistance in securing the mobile operating licence;
- a payment of US$ 200 000 was made by MTN to South Africa’s former Ambassador to Iran, Yusuf Salojee, to assist with delivering a pro-Iran position at the International Atomic Energy Agency; and
- MTN financed a trip by Iran’s nuclear negotiation chief Hassan Rowhani to meet former President Thabo Mbeki to discuss South Africa’s position on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The DA minister said that on 4 June 2012, general Anwa Dramat informed the party that the Hawks were “investigating the allegations formally”.
“I was also informed that the investigation would take time to finalise since part of the investigation will have to be conducted outside the Republic of South Africa and will require formal mutual legal assistance proceedings,” the shadow minister said.
“If these allegations are true they suggest that MTN may have been involved in corrupt activity in trying to secure a mobile operating licence in Iran in possible contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004).
“These very serious allegations cannot simply be investigated by an independent committee within the MTN Group ,” Maynier stressed.
In afternoon trade on the JSE, shares in MTN were up a fraction to R136.09.