5 June 2012

South Africa: MTN to Co-Operate With Hawks

Johannesburg — The MTN Group will co-operate fully in the Hawks' investigation relating to a mobile phone licence in Iran, an official said on Tuesday.

"As we have previously noted, MTN has a zero tolerance for corrupt or unethical practices," spokesman Xolisa Vapi said in a statement.

He said MTN's board of directors had appointed the Hoffmann Committee to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations made by Turkish operator Turkcell.

Turkcell filed a US4.2 billion (about R35.5bn) civil claim in March in which it accused MTN of bribing Iranians and South Africans to get the licence, which was originally awarded to Turkcell.

Hawks' spokesman McIntosh Polela earlier confirmed that the elite police unit was looking into the claims.

"There are allegations. We first did an assessment [to test] the strength of the allegations. After this we decided to do a follow-up investigation," said Polela.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said in a statement on Tuesday that allegations against a high ranking former MTN executive had emerged.

The executive, who was named by Maynier in his statement, allegedly engaged in "unprecedented corrupt acts" in order to win the mobile operating licence in Iran.

Maynier claimed: "A payment of US400,000 (about R3.38m) was made by MTN to Iran's former deputy foreign minister Javid Ghorbanoghli for assistance in securing the mobile operating licence."

Maynier said MTN also allegedly made a payment of US200,000 (about R1.69m) to a South African diplomat -- also named by the DA MP -- to assist with the delivery of a pro-Iran position at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"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," Maynier charged.

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