Fin24

Panic at MTN over US treasury sanctions

2012-11-11 18:52

Johannesburg - Sanctions announced last week by the US treasury against Iranian individuals and companies have led to panic at mobile operator MTN.

The three executive orders released on Friday target 17 individuals believed to be related to human rights abuses by the Iranian government, as well as to supporting terrorism and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

According to sources, the mobile operator is concerned sanctions will cause a hardening of attitudes in the US against the company.

MTN is being sued in the US for allegedly bribing Iranian officials to obtain an operating licence, while it is negotiating with the US treasury to allow the operator to expatriate its cash profits from Iran before the Iranian rial completely bottoms out.

MTN sources are also saying they are worried the US judiciary will rule against them if public sentiment sways out of their favour. Said one: “This is a SA company that should not be subjected to US foreign policy decisions.”

The sanctions are meant to punish those “engaged in censorship or other activities with respect to Iran on or after June 12 2009 that prohibit, limit or penalise the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran”.

“These sanctions target those in Iran who restrict or deny the free flow of information to or from the Iranian people, and who limit or prohibit the exercise of freedoms of expression or assembly,” the US treasury said in a statement.

In his deposition, former MTN executive Chris Kilowan told a US court MTN installed software to intercept data and calls by mobile phone users for the Iranian government. “We had to get a certificate from the intelligence to certify the lawful intercept (sic) system has been installed, been tested and that they’re happy with it,” he said.

Nathan Carleton, communications director for Washington-based lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran, told Fin24 sister publication City Press: “MTN stands out as one of the single most irresponsible businesses in the world and should be ashamed of the depths it has gone to in pursuit of profit ... We hope South African legislators will hold MTN accountable for its systematic human rights violations, corruption and illegalities.”

MTN was not available for comment.

- City Press

Comments
  • Fidel - 2012-11-11 18:14

    MTN sources are also saying they are worried the US judiciary will rule against them if public sentiment sways out of their favour. Said one: “This is a SA company that should not be subjected to US foreign policy decisions.” How does a US court have jurisdiction over foreign entities, none of which are US owned or operating in the US. Why is MTN subjecting itself to this kangaroo court and dignifying this witch hunt by participating in these proceedings. Show some balls MTN, you are a South African company that shouldn't subject itself to this imperial circus!

      darren.raath.5 - 2012-11-11 19:40

      sometimes the US thinks they own the world.i agree,why must MTN be subject to US policy?if they were involved with bribes different story but if they are clean release their funds.

      boltonbarry - 2012-11-11 19:54

      Really. You want a puny South African company to show balls against The US and the rest of the sane world. That would be like standing in front of a freight train shouting. "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" Every one will talk about your bravery at your funeral

  • fanie.duplessis.75 - 2012-11-11 18:26

    Imperial - its freedom of speach - the ideal we are striving for in South Africa! What would happen if MTN would give details on Zuma calls? Or mine, or yours? As much as it pains me US Policy is spot on. Do not give the rights to the next dictator, that was the point of the unwanted war. BAD on you MTN!

  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-11-11 19:00

    Play with the Devil and be prepared to get burned.

  • Eterni80 - 2012-11-11 19:13

    so anywhere you go, might be sanctions and prison ay ??

  • badladballie - 2012-11-11 19:15

    Risk and reward were both huge from the start.

  • ericanbarker - 2012-11-11 19:32

    Good MTN this is karma paying you back for all the bad service you have given people, crash and burn!!!!!!

  • martin.brink.965 - 2012-11-11 19:59

    People trusted you to provide communications, not information/wiretaps to the Iranian Guards! Your actions resulted in murder, and the world should know how little you care about your clients! As soon as my contract is finished, I too am leaving you, you have betrayed our trust.

      helio.paulo.7 - 2012-11-12 09:48

      Here here....let them suffer the wrath of the US justice system. Its one thing to do busiess, but when that business results in oppression of people then you are playing with fire.

  • charmaine.mcdonald2 - 2012-11-11 21:03

    Why must South African company or companies be subject to US rules?We are not their subjects!

  • roy.dillehayes - 2012-11-12 00:03

    Piss on MTN. The santcions are for a reason. Laws are for a reason. Shut them down

  • gary.desousa.7 - 2012-11-12 07:37

    If you want to do buisness with suspect countries you will pay the price of global sanctions imposed by been there,simple.

  • denny.cray - 2012-11-12 09:24

    Sadly the US's interventionist policies will continue to backfire. MTN are once again showing their crony capitalist stripes. Quite disgusting. What a mess. Either way - I can't see any benefits to the average Joe Iranian citizen from all of this.

  • marli.eisern - 2012-11-12 12:45

    How much shares does the ANC or its financial and investment House have in MTN? If this matter becomes a matter of intelligence and or politics than Mr. Zuma and his cabinet should visit Mr. Obama in Washington. I am sure that they will be strong and capable to convince Barry that they did not infringe into US operations. Alternatively, they could share the information and give US government a cut equivalent to that of the ANC into MTN. Then this company will become a joint African-American (75%-25%) para-commercial company. The Iranian issue was a mistake, and it will not happen again. The ANC can also sell a few lodges in KZN to the Obama-Clinton family. This will bring ties even closer... Taking Africa to America and coming out of the jubgle!

  • henk.tredoux.7 - 2012-11-12 16:18

    I must laugh when the article refers to "possible" bribes!!! Also the comment from MTN that US laws should not influence a South African company and its' business? Hello these are international sanctions and you morons tend to ignore it! I agree it's karma for al the bad service I received for 12/15 years!

      Fidel - 2012-11-13 12:11

      Nonsense, these are western sanctions, not approved by the UN!

  • rajesh.sukha - 2012-11-12 16:48

    Why don't the americans post sanctions against china...oh sorry...China owns half of america so that makes it a bit difficult. What about posting sanctions against russia, or the Uk for its violations of international law in invading iraq.....no we don't see that. It is a question, as always, of do as i tell you not do as i do.

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