US court gives MTN a breather

2012-10-20 13:26

MTN scored a reprieve when a US federal court decided to put on hold a case in which allegations of bribery are made against the multinational telecommunications provider.

MTN is accused of bribing government officials in Iran to secure a cellular operating licence in the Middle Eastern country.

The case has been brought by Turkcell, MTN’s rival in Iran which lost out on the licence when MTN entered the fray.

A whistle-blower formerly employed by MTN has told the court of how MTN bribed well-connected Iranian government officials, as well as a South African ambassador based in Tehran, to secure the licence.

Iran is now MTN’s biggest market after Nigeria.

The company asked the Washington district court to either dismiss the Turkcell case outright, or stay it until after the Supreme Court renders its decision on what has become known as the Kiobel case, the company said in a statement last week.

In the Kiobel case, Nigerian nationals are accusing the Royal Dutch Shell Company of aiding and abetting the Nigerian military when they used murder and torture against oil exploration in the Niger Delta between 1992 and 1995, US-based human rights organisation Human Rights First said.

In this case, plaintiffs are attempting to use the Alien Tort Statute to bring to book alleged human rights violations outside of the US.

“Using the Kiobel case, the judge will then decide whether Turkcell’s case against MTN can be heard in a US court when neither is a US company, and the alleged conduct happened in foreign territory.

“Legal experts predict the Supreme Court will use the Kiobel case to restrict such cases,” MTN said last week.

The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Kiobel case in June next year.

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