5 June 2012

South Africa: Hawks Launch a Formal Investigation Into Allegations of Corruption Against MTN

Photo: http://www.mtn.co.za/
South African company MTN, the largest cellphone network provider in Africa, is facing allegations that contracts with the Iranian government were acquired through bribes.

press release

I have been informed by General Anwa Dramat, Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the "Hawks"), that a formal investigation has been launched into allegations of corruption by the MTN Group (Ltd).

On 30 March 2012 I wrote to the Hawks requesting an investigation into allegations of corruption relating to the MTN Group (Ltd) securing a mobile operating licence in Iran.

This followed allegations, which emerged in the United States District Court of Columbia in Washington DC, that Phuthuma Nhleko, former Chief Executive Officer of the MTN Group (Ltd), with the assistance of a small group of senior employees, engaged in what was referred to as "unprecedented corrupt acts", in order to win the mobile operating licence in Iran, in a scheme known as "Project Snooker".

The allegations, which remain unproven, include inter alia the claim that:

a payment of U$ 400 000 was made by MTN to Iran's former Deputy Foreign Minister Javid Ghorbanoghli for assistance in securing the mobile operating licence;

a payment of US$ 200 000 was made by MTN to South Africa's former Ambassador to Iran, Yusuf Salojee, to assist with delivering a pro-Iran position at the International Atomic Energy Agency; and

MTN financed a trip by Iran's nuclear negotiation chief Hassan Rowhani to meet former President Thabo Mbeki to discuss South Africa's position on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On 04 June 2012, General Anwa Dramat informed me that the Hawks were now "investigating the allegations formally".

I was also informed that the investigation would take time to finalise since part of the investigation will have to be conducted outside the Republic of South Africa and will require "formal mutual legal assistance proceedings".

If these allegations are true they suggest that MTN may have been involved in corrupt activity in trying to secure a mobile operating licence in Iran in possible contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004).

These very serious allegations cannot simply be investigated by an independent committee within the MTN Group (Ltd).

David Maynier, Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

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