CAPE TOWN-South Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, has been cleared of alleged bribery in securing a business deal in Iran.
An independent special committee appointed by the MTN board but chaired by internationally renowned jurist, Lord Leonard Hoffmann, has concluded a year-long investigation and found no evidence to allegations of improper behavior involving MTN, the company said in a statement.
MTN called the allegations “a fabric of lies, distortions and inventions”.
The probe had cleared MTN’s former group president and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko and its former commercial director Irene Charnley, said MTN chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa.
“Allegations of complicity against the chairperson and the group president and [current] CEO Sifiso Dabengwa were similarly found to be without substance,” he said. “Lord Hoffmann concluded that he found nothing in the conduct of MTN over this period that puts at question MTN’s integrity or propriety. This is a reassuring validation of MTN’s culture and ethical business practices.”
MTN was accused of using bribery to obtain a 2.4-billion-dollar license in Iran from Turkish mobile operator Turkcell, which filed a 4.2-billion-dollar lawsuit against MTN in a U.S. court in March last year.
Turkcell also accused MTN of influencing South Africa’s foreign policy with regard to the country’s vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning Iran’s nuclear program. But the allegations were denied by both MTN and the South African government.
In June last year, MTN filed a motion at the U.S. federal court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Turkcell, saying “MTN believes that there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s U.S. claim and no basis for such a claim to be brought in the U.S. court, and MTN therefore remains confident that the claim will be dismissed.” Despite the conclusion of the investigation, U.S. legal proceedings are still pending.
In its Friday statement, MTN said it expected the lawsuit in the U.S. to be thrown out as soon as the Supreme Court makes its decision.