South African mobile operator MTN today condemned an attempt by Turkish operator Turkcell to use the threat of a U.S. legal claim “to extort money from MTN”.
Turkcell recently threatened MTN with litigation in the US alleging claims of corruption in relation to MTN’s bid for Iran’s second mobile licence. In 2005, a consortium that included MTN was awarded the licence.
MTN also criticised Turkcell’s refusal to cooperate with an independent investigation that MTN set up in February to investigate the allegations, headed by British supreme court judge, Lord Hoffmann.
MTN said it believed there was “no legal merit” to Turkcell’s claims and “no basis for a U.S. court to consider them". MTN added that talks with Turkcell had broken down as a result of “extortionate demands” for damages from Turkcell and its threat to start a lawsuit in the US.
MTN stressed that it is committed to resolving the issue through Lord Hoffmann’s inquiry.
“Turkcell’s threat to abuse the U.S. legal system to pressure MTN will not succeed,” said an MTN spokesman. “MTN wants Turkcell’s cooperation with the independent investigation.”
Turkcell’s accusations involve conduct alleged to have taken place in South Africa and Iran, and have no connection to the US, according to MTN. The telco added that the U.S. Supreme Court "is widely expected to restrict such claims" in a case that was argued last week.
"Lord Hoffmann, who was born in South Africa, is widely regarded as the pre-eminent legal figure in the United Kingdom over the last 20 years. He has a strong reputation for independence. Over a long career, he has proven his willingness to challenge the actions of governments of all political persuasions," MTN added in a statement issued to the press.
MTN Group operates in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The company is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa.