MTN Group has reaffirmed its innocence as its long-running legal spat with Turkcell reignited after a South African ambassador was arrested on corruption charges.
The former South African ambassador to Iran, Yusuf Saloojee was detained over allegations that he was bribed to play a role in cancelling Turkcell’s Iranian licence. This enabled MTN Group to acquire a 49% stake in Irancell in 2005, allowing the group to operate in the market. Saloojee has since been released on bail, although ITWeb reports that he will return to court in April.
Turkcell has long claimed that it should have received the licence, and accuses MTN of bribing officials in both Iran and South Africa to procure the stake. It most recently filed a case in 2017 seeking damages of $4.2 billion.
MTN has dismissed Turkcell’s latest allegations as “an abuse of the process of court, baseless and without merit”, noting that the only evidence against Saloojee was provided by its former employee Chris Kilowan.
In a statement, MTN said: “Ambassador Saloojee himself has repeatedly said the money he received from Kilowan was the result of a private loan arrangement between him and Kilowan, that he has repaid that loan to Kilowan and that this was a private matter between the two that had nothing to do with MTN or anyone else.”
While this statement seemingly acknowledges that money changed hands, MTN evidently considers the matter to be between Kilowan and Saloojee, while Kilowan argues that the operator made the payment in order to procure a licence in Iran. MTN noted that an independent jurist had dismissed Turkcell’s legal challenge in 2013, singling out Kilowan as “a fantasist and a conspiracy theorist”.