MTN Group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa released a statement rejecting allegations that the South African based mobile telecoms company was involved in corrupt practices in its Iran operations.
The statement follows wide media coverage of allegations made by Turkcell which lost the Iran operating licence to MTN. Turkcell has launched a legal challenge against MTN in the US in a move that has brought to the public damaging allegations.
Dabengwa said the current media interest in MTN’s operations in Iran (through its minority interest in Irancell), particularly the sensationalist allegations made by Turkcell, is naturally of concern.
He said MTN did not cause Turkcell to lose the licence in Iran, as Turkcell claims. “The Turkcell consortium was never awarded the licence in Iran. In 2004, a consortium that included Turkcell was pre-selected through a bid process to be awarded the second mobile licence. However, certain conditions set by the Iranian government and the regulator needed to be fulfilled. Those conditions were never met”.
Added Dabengwa, “it was Turkcell’s own failures to meet Iranian legal and commercial requirements that caused its exit from the licence process” He said in September 2005, the Ministry of ICT authorised the Iranian consortium partners to negotiate with MTN, the runner up in the bid process. As a result, a consortium that included MTN as the non-controlling shareholder was awarded the licence”.
He said any suggestion that Turkcell’s failure to obtain the licence was as a result of any alleged corrupt or improper practices by MTN is unfounded. “The allegation that MTN influenced South African foreign policy with regard to its armaments and nuclear position is simply ludicrous and has already been dismissed by the South African government”.
He said of particular concern are the allegations that accuse MTN of complicity in human rights abuses in Iran. Such allegations are both false and offensive.
“MTN’s views on human rights are crystal clear. Civic and human rights are central to us as a company, and as individuals. We have clear ethical standards and we expect the people we do business with to abide by them. MTN has established an Ethics Committee with responsibility for guiding the company’s approach to such issues and ensuring that it follows best international practices”.
Dabengwa added that there have been colourful allegations over Irancell’s complicity in human rights abuses. “As is the case with every government and every telecoms operator, the licence and local law in Iran give certain government agencies the power to access subscriber details and intercept telephone lines. This is not exceptional. As with all telecoms companies, Irancell is bound by these laws and requirements. This would have been the case irrespective of who Irancell’s shareholders were: whether MTN or Turkcell”.