MTN in Iran: DA wants more answers

The Democratic Alliance has raised further questions relating to MTN‘s operations in Iran, which have come under immense scrutiny since initial claims of bribery were brought against the mobile operator by Turkcell in early 2012.

In July 2012, South Africa suspended Yusuf Saloojee, its former ambassador to Tehran, pending an investigation into his ties to MTN.

Saloojee was named in a Turkcell suit against MTN for allegedly taking a $200,000 bribe from the SA mobile operator to help it win an operating license in Iran.

However, in October 2012, the DA determined that that the ambassador was back at in post, while an investigation into acts of bribery was still in progress.

MTN has a 49% stake in Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence. Turkcell was a rival bidder for the licence.

The Turkish operator eventually dropped its $4.2 billion US lawsuit against MTN in May, citing a recent US Supreme Court ruling that hurt its case.

Turkcell had originally claimed that MTN made “improper payments to an Iranian and a South African government official,” during 2004 and 2005.

On Monday (24 June), David Maynier, DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans, said that Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had informed him that Saloojee was no longer employed by her Department, following the expiry of his contract on 31 December 2012.

Maynier said he was informed in a letter dated, 20 June 2013.

The DA noted that an internal investigation conducted by MTN found that Ambassador Saloojee had received a loan of approximately US$200,000 from an employee of MTN, Chris Kilowan.

However, the final report of the internal investigation conducted by MTN, which was made public on 1 February 2013, found that no bribe was paid to Ambassador Saloojee.

The DA further pointed out that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) conducted its own internal investigation and produced a report, entitled Alleged Misconduct against a certain Ambassador Yusuf Saloojee, which was dated 28 September 2012.

“We have to be sure that Ambassador Salooojee was not let off the hook by Dirco and given an easy way out when his contract expired on 31 December 2012,” Maynier said in a statement.

“First, Dirco’s internal investigation was completed about four months before MTN’s internal investigation,” he said.

The shadow minister stressed that findings of MTN’s internal investigation could therefore not have been included in the Dirco’s internal investigation.

According to the DA: the internal investigation, conducted by MTN, also revealed that the company had:

  • provided Ambassador Saloojee with an Ericsson P900 cellphone valued at R5,888.46;
  • paid Ambassador Saloojee’s cellphone account in the amount of R40,419 between 2005 and 2012; and
  • paid various sponsorships in the amount of more than R750,000 to the South African Embassy in Iran between 2004 and 2007.

The political party said that the final report of Dirco’s internal investigation has not been made public.

“I will, therefore, be writing to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, requesting her to make the final report of the investigation into the conduct of Ambassador Yusuf Saloojee public,” Maynier said.

More on MTN in Iran

How MTN allegedly bribed its way into Iran

MTN’s political sponsorship

MTN’s $4.2 billion lawsuit not over yet

Turkcell withdraws MTN lawsuit

DA questions MTN bribe accused reinstatement

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MTN in Iran: DA wants more answers