Turkcell said its $4.2-billion (around R54.8 billion) case against MTN will go to trial in South Africa.
The Turkish operator alleges that MTN unlawfully secured the Iranian mobile phone operating licence that Turkcell won in 2004, and that MTN used bribery and corruption to overturn the initial decision.
Turkcell said it was the winning bidder for the Iranian licence in 2004, with MTN coming second. MTN subsequently operated Iran’s first private cellphone network as MTN Irancell.
The $4.2-billion claim against MTN is calculated from the profits and interest Turkcell said it would have made had it operated the Irancell licence.
Its claim was lodged in a local High Court in 2013, but was delayed by objections from MTN.
On 5 May, the court rejected the 29 remaining objections from MTN, clearing the way for Turkcell’s case to go ahead.
The claim is against MTN Group and its companies, as well as Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN’s executive chairman, and former MTN director Irene Charnley.
MTN had until 30 May to apply for leave to appeal, but did not do so, said Turkcell.
MTN has 20 days to answer Turkcell’s claim, after which the matter will move towards discovery and a trial date will be set, it said.
No legal merit – MTN
MTN said it has noted reports of the lawsuit against it in the South Gauteng High Court.
“The lawsuit currently before the courts is not a new action and arises from a claim that was lodged in 2013,” said MTN.
“Recent developments in the matter were procedural in nature and had nothing to do with the merits of the case.”
MTN said it believes there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claim and will oppose it.