Johannesburg - The former chief executive of MTN Group
[JSE:MTN] denied on Sunday that he authorised bribes to Iranian and South
African government officials in return for a cellular licence in Iran.
"I can state quite categorically that during my tenure
as group CEO of MTN no bribes were authorised or paid by the MTN Group to any
South African or Iranian government officials to secure the mobile licence in
Iran," Phuthuma Nhleko said in a statement.
Turkish mobile operator Turkcell this week filed a $4.2bn
lawsuit against MTN in a US federal court, accusing it of using bribery and
other corrupt acts to win its licence in Iran in 2004.
Nhleko, who was then the CEO of MTN, is named in the suit,
as well as current CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, who was then the chief operating
The suit also charges that MTN lobbied the South African
government to take a soft stance on Iran's nuclear programme and provide Tehran
with military equipment in exchange for the licence, which was initially
awarded to Turkcell.
MTN has said the case is without legal merit, while Pretoria
has said its foreign policy is independent.
"MTN's conduct was not unlawful or corrupt and MTN was
certainly not in a position where it could influence or fetter the decisions
made by the South African government or any other sovereign state," Nhleko
MTN has set up an independent committee led by a UK legal
scholar to investigate Turkcell's claims. It has said Turkcell has refused to
cooperate with the investigation.
MTN has a 49% stake in Iranian unit Irancell, which accounts
for nearly 10% of its annual revenue.