South African mobile operator MTN released a statement that it “strongly condemned Turkcell’s attempt to use the threat of a U.S. legal claim to extort money from MTN,” and criticizing Turkcell for refusing to cooperate with an independent investigation set up by MTN.
The statement stems from a lawsuit filed in February by Turkcell seeking compensation from MTN over a cellular license awarded in Iran, which Turkcell claimed MTN was awarded following an agreement with South Africa to look the other way towards Iran’s nuclear program.
“Turkcell had threatened MTN with litigation in the United States alleging claims of corruption in relation to MTN’s bid to participate in the second mobile phone network in Iran,” MTN noted in a statement. “In 2005, a consortium that included MTN was awarded the licence. … Although MTN believes there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claims and no basis for a U.S. court to consider them, it had nonetheless sought to obtain Turkcell’s cooperation with the independent investigation.”
MTN claims to operate mobile networks in 21 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East serving more than 160 million customers, and has had a non-controlling stake in Irancell since 2005. The company noted that “South Africa has not imposed any economic sanctions against Iran. Working with international legal advisors, MTN has maintained its policy of operating at all times within the various international sanctions regimes which apply to Iran.”
MTN late last year announced a joint venture in Uganda with American Tower to acquire nearly 1,000 tower sites from MTN Group’s subsidiary in Uganda for $175 million. The towers will be controlled and managed by the newly formed ATC Uganda, in which American Tower will have a 51% controlling interest, which cost the company $89 million.
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