MTN has condemned what it describes as an attempt by Turkcell to “use the threat of a US legal claim to extort money” from the JSE-listed mobile group. This follows a series of damaging allegations and a threat of legal action by the Turkish operator over claims it was awarded an operating licence in Iran corruptly.
MTN claims Turkcell is refusing to cooperate with an independent investigation set up by the SA group and headed by British supreme court judge Lord Leonard Hoffmann.
MTN claimed in February that Turkcell was planning to serve papers in the US courts alleging improper payments were made to secure the Iranian licence and that the SA government promised to make favourable statements about Iran’s civilian nuclear programme in order to help the SA cellular group secure the deal.
Turkcell was involved in a bid for Iran’s second network licence, but lost to MTN, which now holds a 49% stake in the fast-growing business, called MTN Irancell (the state-owned Iran Electronic Development Company owns the other 51%).
“MTN has appointed Lord Hoffmann to lead an independent investigation of the allegations,” it said on Monday. “Although MTN believes there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claims and no basis for a US court to consider them, it had nonetheless sought to obtain Turkcell’s cooperation with the independent investigation.”
The SA group says talks between MTN and Turkcell “have broken down as a result of Turkcell’s extortionate demands for damages and their threat to start a frivolous lawsuit in the US”.
“Turkcell’s threat to abuse the US legal system to pressure MTN will not succeed,” says an MTN spokesman in a statement. “MTN wants Turkcell’s cooperation with the independent investigation.”
MTN says Turkcell’s accusations involve conduct alleged to have taken place in SA and Iran, and have no connection to the US. The US supreme court is widely expected to restrict such claims in a case that was argued last week, it says.
It says it works with international legal advisors to maintain a policy of “operating at all times within the various international sanctions regimes which apply to Iran”. The SA government has not imposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation.
Turkcell could not immediately be reached for comment. — Staff reporter, TechCentral
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