Expatica news

S.Africa investigators probe MTN corruption allegations

South Africa’s elite police wing has opened an investigation into graft allegations in mobile giant MTN’s securing of an operating licence in Iran, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Turkish operator Turkcell in March filed a $4.2-billion (3.4-billion-euro) lawsuit in Washington alleging MTN had bribed Iranian officials and pressed Pretoria to offer weapons and diplomatic support for its nuclear programme.

“We first did an assessment to cast the strength of the allegations. After this we decided to do a follow-up investigation,” said McIntosh Polela, spokesman of the Hawks elite police unit, according to Sapa news agency.

MTN, which denies the claims, owns a 49-percent stake in the Iranian mobile telecoms company Irancell, which holds the operating licence.

Turkcell subsidiary East Asian Consortium won an earlier bid to acquire the licence, but this was reversed in 2005.

The South African giant operates in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

It has came under fire for its Iranian operations from the influential US lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran in January.

MTN’s 34.7 million clients in Iran make up 21 percent of its total subscriber base.