Nhleko wades back into Irancell case

Former MTN Group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko has again defended his position on charges of corruption and bribery against the group relating to its license in Iran.

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.

MTN owns 49% of Irancell, the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence.

Elite crime-fighting unit the Hawks are set to investigate MTN.

“I am honoured and proud to have been the group CEO and President of the MTN Group of companies for nearly a ten year period until March 2011.  During this period, MTN grew to be the largest market capitalised company on the JSE (over R250 billion) that has its primary listing in South Africa,” Nhleko said in a statement on Wednesday (6 June).

The former company head had previously stated his position on the allegations back in April and moved to reiterate that stance on Wednesday. “I repeat that, during my tenure as CEO of MTN, no bribes were approved or paid with my consent or the consent of the MTN Group.  Further, neither the MTN Group nor I were in a position to influence or fetter the decisions and foreign policy of the South African government, and we did not do so.

“The allegations now made by Turkcell are being made inexplicably for the first time in almost seven years after the licence was issued in Iran.  These allegations are entirely without substance and have been made recklessly and irresponsibly by an aggrieved competitor,” Nhleko said.

He notes that Turkcell is attempting to pursue its claims in a US court, despite the fact that the issue is one between a Turkish company and a South African company regarding a licence in Iran.

“There is no connection whatsoever with the US.  The question of jurisdiction will ultimately be decided by a US court.  However, in the interim, Turkcell continues to use the media to publish its far‑fetched allegations, which are based on the contradictory and inconsistent evidence given, on deposition, in the US, by a disgruntled former MTN employee.

“In the circumstances I do therefore consider it necessary to repeat that no bribes were approved or paid with my consent or the consent of the MTN Group.  The allegation that the MTN Group was pervaded by a culture of “extensive corruption” is scurrilous and untrue.  I remain willing to assist MTN and South African law enforcement agencies in rebutting the false claims and allegations made by Turkcell,” Nhleko concluded.

Related articles:

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Turkcell will struggle to bring MTN case in US

MTN, The Fish, and Project Snooker

MTN/Turkcell talks break down amid extortion claims

MTN, TurkCell in talks over bribery lawsuit

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Nhleko wades back into Irancell case