Former MTN CEO denies bribes to Iran, SA

2012-04-02 08:04

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 officer.

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 said.

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.


  • Arthur - 2012-04-02 08:34

    Deny, deny, deny. When will someone who is caught out admit up-front what misdeeds they got up to instead of humiliating themselves a lot more when it is proven, as it no doubt will be in this joker's case.

      Napolita - 2012-04-02 08:41


      Brenton007 - 2012-04-02 09:11

      Why not share the info that proves that he or MTN is guilty instead of insulting them when only accusations are being made. Turkcell is refusing to co-operate with an independent investigation which to me indicates that their case is without merit and a case of sour grapes.

  • Niel - 2012-04-02 08:35

    Was reported yesterday that the 49% share,accounts for 21% of their yearly revenue......! He will deny it,all the BEE "components" that made MILLIONS out of the deal,stand to loose it ALL! They should investigate.....!!!!

      Napolita - 2012-04-02 08:43

      Yet today the very story that you are commenting on which you "ought" to have read says: "MTN has a 49% stake in Iranian unit Irancell, which accounts for nearly 10% of its annual revenue." So what's the source of your " 21% of their yearly revenue"?

  • Attie - 2012-04-02 08:45

    i have done a lot of business in iran myself and believe me the only way you get business in that country is by paying a bribe. mtn will be no different. just tell the truth and pay the lawsuit it serves you right for doing business in that country

      Nosiphom - 2012-04-02 08:58

      Why is Turkcell lodging the suit in America? How does an American court have to do with an Iranian deal involving a South African and a Turkish company?

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-04-02 09:18

      @Nosiphom. They are most probably looking at countries that had these type of court cases before and where there are a better change for success. They are also looking where MTN may have property or countries that got agreements with USA. MTN may have properties in those countries that are in agreement with USA and because of that the possibility of a claim on those properties are bigger. This is now if Turkcell win their case.

  • Ben - 2012-04-02 09:16

    There is only one way. Proof or No proof.

      Napolita - 2012-04-02 09:32


  • Jay - 2012-04-02 09:39

    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. This type of Lawsuit in a US Fed Court / US 4.2 Billion SURELY must have definite proof of Bribery & Corruption. I am sure TURKCELL does have such evidence and it is professionally presented that will lead to the exposing of devious SA Govt officials and the Corrupt MTN Executives who benefitted personally from this. More importantly, due punishment and OBVIOUS MONETARY RECOVERY is vital. Something that is very slack in SA Law, and BBBEE thugs get away with.

  • Katja - 2012-04-02 12:58

    Apart from the usual corruption that we are used to hearing on a daily basis, Iran is building a nuclear bomb for which it is being sanctioned etc. in almost all western countries except Turkey and a few of the usual morally bankrupt suspects. South Africa is now well on the way of getting the reputation of being on top of the list when it comes to greed and moral bankrupcy. The government is showing them and business is following without hesitation....

  • Fanie - 2012-04-02 16:24

    The question arises, when is bribery a bribe?.... To answer this question, let's consider the manufacturing and exportation of arms of war....Which country is the leading exporter of arms and how do they maintain this lead? Is it purely thru marketing or some other "gentle pursuasion" mechanism? Is it morally acceptable to sell arms to two countries that have strained relationships on the understanding that if one buys less the other one will gain an edge? Is it morally acceptably to raise an economy on the strength of military equipment exportation?

  • musamuskid - 2012-06-06 09:20

    Arrest that man

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