Turkcell files suit against MTN in Joburg

2013-11-27 09:54

Turkcell, the mobile operator that has levelled corruption allegations against MTN, has filed new court papers in Joburg.

The company put out a brief press release in Istanbul at the same time yesterday, saying it is a “continuation” of its failed attempt to have the matter heard in the US.

“Turkcell [yesterday] filed a lawsuit against MTN before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, seeking damages [resulting] from MTN’s illegal acts,” read the statement.

Turkcell was seeking damages totalling $4.35?billion (R44?billion) in the US, but “voluntarily dismissed the matter” in May after an unrelated ruling in the US Supreme Court made it improbable that the company would be allowed to use the US as a jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute – a 220-year-old piece of US legislation that allows foreign matters involving US companies to be heard in the US.

The ruling blocked cases that were coming to US courts citing relatively flimsy ties between the respondents and the US, like MTN’s listing in New York.

Turkcell immediately said it would be seeking a new jurisdiction and has now found it in South Africa.

It alleges that MTN bribed both Iranian and South African officials to secure Iran’s first private cellular licence in 2005 – or at least to ensure Turkcell was booted off the list of bidders.

The star witness in the Turkcell case is former MTN executive Chris Kilowan, who made shocking allegations about the bribing of diplomatic personnel and the peddling of influence.

South Africa’s ambassador to Iran at the time, Yusuf Saloojee, was also implicated in the allegations.

MTN set up a committee to investigate the allegations under the direction of Lord Leonard Hoffmann, a well-known international jurist.

In February, the committee reported that Kilowan’s allegations were a “fabric of lies, distortions and inventions”.

MTN now owns 49% of Irancell, a major part of its international portfolio although the operation is hampered by US sanctions that block the repatriation of funds from Iran.

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