Friday, March 30, 2012
‘MTN used bribery to win licence’
March 30 2012 at 06:34am
By Indira AR Lakshmanan and Tom Schoenberg
By Indira AR Lakshmanan and Tom Schoenberg
MTN bribed officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and South African leaders, and promised Iran weapons and UN votes in exchange for a licence to offer cellphone service there. These are the allegations in a lawsuit filed by licence rival Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri.
Turkcell, which initially was awarded the Iranian cellular licence, sued its JSE-listed rival on Wednesday in federal court in Washington for $4.2 billion (R32bn) in damages. The suit includes numerous alleged internal MTN memos that detail the company’s efforts to win the Iranian business after losing the bid to Turkcell in February 2004.
“Upset by the loss of the open competition, MTN sought to obtain illegally what it could not obtain through honest competition and thereafter embarked on a premeditated programme of corruption through bribery and trading in influence,” the complaint states.
MTN had noted the Turkcell filing, MTN spokesman Xolisa Vapi said yesterday, without further comment.
The licence tender was “the largest new international telecoms opportunity in the world and was known to involve the largest single investment opportunity into Iran since the 1979 Revolution,” read the complaint prepared by Patton Boggs, a US-based international law and lobbying firm.
MTN shares dipped as much as 2.6 percent yesterday, and closed 1.5 percent lower at R37.40. The stock has declined 4.8 percent this year, for a market value of R258bn. Turkcell slipped 0.9 percent yesterday.
In memos attached to the complaint, MTN codenamed the effort “Project Snooker”, describing pay-offs to Javid Ghorbanoghli, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, dubbed “Long-J”, and Yusuf Saloojee, South Africa’s ambassador in Tehran at the time, codenamed “Short-J.’’ The men were paid $400 000 and $200 000 respectively, according to the complaint.
In a September 21, 2005, memo attached to the lawsuit, then-MTN chief executive Phuthuma Nhleko said: “Project Snooker still presents one of the most significant ‘virgin’ mobile opportunities in the world.” MTN signed deals with Iran that week “under duress” to “book our place at the foot of the mountain”, he wrote, according to the memo.
MTN prevailed on the South African government to abstain from three votes on Iran’s nuclear energy plan at the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna in 2005 and 2006, according to the complaint. The Iranian communications ministry allegedly told MTN it was withholding its licence until it saw how South Africa voted at the IAEA meeting.
South Africa’s representative to the IAEA, Abdul Minty, abstained from an IAEA vote on Iran on November 24, 2005. The licence was delivered three days later, the complaint states.
The complaint says MTN in August 2004 struck a deal with Ali Shamkhani, then Iran’s defence minister, to facilitate South African military co-operation and the delivery of defence equipment, including Denel AH-2 Rooivalk helicopters, encrypted military radios, sniper rifles, G5 howitzer artillery weapons, cannons, armoured personnel carriers and radar technology. The list was set in a 2004 memorandum of understanding, which was not included with the suit.
MTN executives and the Iranian officials came to call the shopping list by the codename “The Fish”, the complaint alleges, as much of the equipment on the list was not available to Iran through legitimate channels because of US and international restrictions.
While MTN had promised Iran it could deliver South African military aid, no arms sales took place, angering Iranian officials, Turkcell claimed.
Turkcell’s complaint cites violations of the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that gives US courts jurisdiction in some instances to consider claims by foreigners for illegal conduct that occurred in another nation.
The US Supreme Court is considering a case brought by a group of Nigerians seeking damages under the statute, claiming Royal Dutch Shell helped their government commit torture and murders in the early 1990s. Shell argued that corporations could not be sued under the law. Four federal appeals courts had permitted corporations to be sued under the statute, the Nigerians argued.
On March 12, MTN issued a statement accusing Turkcell of attempted extortion and saying Turkcell had threatened a suit alleging improper payments to an Iranian and a South African official. MTN said at the time that any such suit lacked merit.
MTN also said that US courts would not have jurisdiction over any such case as the “accusations involve conduct alleged to have taken place in South Africa and Iran, and have no connection to the US”.
MTN established a committee of non-executive directors to probe Turkcell’s allegations.
The claims against MTN include aiding and abetting violation of US treaties, tortuous interference with a contract, defamation and breach of contract related to a confidentiality agreement that Turkcell says MTN violated.
A “highly confidential” March 25, 2007 alleged memo to MTN’s chief executive from its representative in Iran, Chris Kilowan, recounts Saloojee’s description of visits to South Africa by top Iranian officials on behalf of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Khamenei dispatched Ali Larijani, then the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, to remind Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s leader at the time, “that certain defence-related promises were made by the South African minister of defence in 2004 in exchange for which MTN was allowed to replace Turkcell in the Irancell consortium”, the memo says.
The memo reports that Manouchehr Mottaki, then Iran’s foreign minister, was sent by Ahmadinejad to “get a direct answer” from Mbeki about the alleged promises to sell arms to Iran. Mbeki “would not like to be drawn into the matter”, his spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said yesterday.
Mottaki “reiterated their understanding that MTN was allowed to replace Turkcell in exchange for defence co-operation”, Kilowan says in the memo with the complaint. The suit also alleges that former South African trade unionist Irene Charnley, then a senior executive at MTN, arranged meetings for Iranian officials with Mbeki and the defence minister in 2004 and 2005, when MTN was trying to wrest the licence away from Turkcell.
Efforts to reach international government spokespeople and officials with knowledge of the case were unsuccessful. This included Lanny Davis, a lawyer representing MTN at a Washington firm.
Turkcell’s agreement suffered a setback in 2005 when Iran’s parliament ordered the company to reduce its stake from 70 percent to 49 percent, deeming that foreign control of the joint venture was a threat to Iran’s security. Turkcell eventually agreed, and later paid the licence fee in September 2005, according to the lawsuit.
Turkcell claims that Iran continuously changed its terms, opening the way for MTN to replace the Turkish company in the deal.
As part of the new deal, MTN, which controlled only 49 percent of the Irancell consortium, also agreed to pay capitalisation costs, taxes and licence fees owed by the Iranian shareholders, the complaint alleges. The payments, including $88 million in capitalisation costs, were allegedly disguised as loans that “MTN knew at the time would not be repaid”.
MTN’s Iran division, known as MTN Irancell, contributed R5bn in revenue in the first six months of last year, or about 9 percent of MTN’s sales, and R2.1bn in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, MTN figures show.
MTN plans R1.3bn in capital expenditures in Iran, up from R1.2bn last year. MTN had 33 million subscribers in Iran as of September 2011, and was budgeting for 4 million new customers in Iran this year, the firm said this month.
Turkcell said MTN’s business dealings in the US were “extensive”, giving the US court so-called personal jurisdiction over the group. Turkcell cites MTN’s roaming deals with US cellular carriers AT&T and T-Mobile USA, the sale of airtime at 7-Eleven stores, collaboration with Facebook and contracts with Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems as evidence.
Turkcell adds that one of MTN’s directors lives in the US. – Bloomberg
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Jail for Cape’s Thelma and Louise
March 27 2012 at 07:48am
By Jade Witten
By Jade Witten
- ‘Thelma and Louise’ face charges of armed robbery
- ‘Thelma and Louise’ nabbed by cops
- ‘Thelma and Louise’ in court
It was their tik addiction that finally spelt their end. Driven to feed their drug habit, the two lovers, dubbed “Thelma and Louise”, took to robbing women with a toy gun.
Using a 9mm BB gun, Nicole Booysens, 25, and Mada Larsen, 24, cruised the suburbs of Bothasig, Table View, Parklands and Parow looking for easy targets.
Between January 5 and 11, the pair robbed five women in separate incidents. With Booysens behind the wheel, they would drive up to their targets.
Larsen, toy gun at the ready, would get out of the car and threaten their victims into handing over their possessions. They stole handbags, cellphones, cosmetics and cash.
But their luck ran out on January 12 when they were arrested.
Police, who were by now hunting for the pair, pounced on them at a B&B in Parow after a tip-off from a member of the public. Packets of tik, dagga and SIM cards from the stolen cellphones were seized.
Their wild ride came to an end in the Blue Downs Regional Court on Monday where they were each sentenced to eight years behind bars. But leading up to the sentencing, their story was laid bare to the court.
It told of two lives irreparably damaged by sexual abuse and later drug addiction.
Booysens and Larsen cut forlorn figures in the dock.
Booysens was the calmer of the two. Larsen wept intermittently as her and Booysens lives of molestation and rape were explained to magistrate Piet Nel.
Booysens lawyer, Keith Gess, told Nel she used tik every day and was under the influence when the offences were committed.
“She was exposed to tragic, traumatic events at a young age and that led to her drug addiction,” Gess said.
At age 11, Booysens was sexually abused by a relative. At 12, her mother had a nervous breakdown because of an armed robbery at a post office where she worked. At 14, she was raped.
“This incident made her feel worthless and she suffered tremendous guilt,” said Gess.
In Grade 6, Booysens was attacked on her way to school by an assailant who cut her face with a knife. In 2005, Booysens was robbed at gunpoint at the Sanlam Centre Mall where she worked. At 18, she was on antidepressants. Just three years ago, she was hijacked.
“In Grade 8, she started smoking dagga and abused alcohol to try and block out and numb her past,” Gess explained.
In March last year, the women started an intimate relationship. The relationship went sour when Larsen lived with her brother who abused tik. Larsen, who defended herself, testified she also had a hard upbringing.
She was molested at primary school and later gang-raped by seven men in high school.
She dropped out of school in Grade 10 and smoked dagga. Larsen then worked at Spar but left her job because she moved to Paarl.
Larsen testified that she was also abused by her ex-fiancé and endured a strained marriage to another man which ended in divorce in February.
She has a two-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.
She was exposed to tik while living with her brother in Maitland. She then lived with Booysens family and was told to leave because of her addiction.
Larsen then endured a stint on the streets before moving in with Booysens.
On Monday, the pair pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated robbery, one of attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances and one of possession of drugs.
Nel convicted them and said during sentence that aggravated robbery was a very serious crime.
The fact that they used a toy gun did not lessen the severity of the charges, Nel added. Society often suffered such “frequent and relentless” attacks, he said.
The women faced a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years for each robbery, but Nel found it just to deviate from this.
He said exceptional and compelling circumstances which justified a deviation from the prescribed minimum included:
*The women pleaded guilty to the offences and expressed remorse. Their guilty plea expedited the matter and they accepted responsibility for their actions.
*The women were first-time offenders.
*The victims were not physically harmed during the robberies. “But the psychological and emotional trauma suffered when a toy firearm is used is similar to when a real one is used,” Nel said.
*The women abused drugs.
*The women had been in custody for just over two months.
Nel said time in jail was the only appropriate sentence.
For the aggravated robbery charges, they were sentenced to 15 years in prison, with seven years suspended for five years on condition they did not commit a similar offence during that period.
For the illegal possession of drugs, the women were sentenced to three years in jail. The sentences are to run concurrently.
The women were also declared unfit to own a firearm.
Timeline of crimes
Armed with a toy gun, Nicole Booysens and Mada Larsen robbed five unsuspecting women.
January 5: In Spilbergen Road, Bothasig, the women robbed Angela Green and stole her Blackberry Curve worth R1 500, Nokia C 6 cellphone valued at R2 500, cosmetics worth R250, her purse containing R100 and her ID.
January 6: In Vryburger Avenue, Bothasig, they accosted Maria Friebus and tried to steal her handbag. Friebus resisted and the women fled empty-handed.
January 7: In Zeeland Close, Table View, they robbed Moria Gurajenwa and stole her handbag, with her Nokia cellphone valued at R800 and R30 in cash inside the handbag.
January 9: In Provident Street, Parow, they stole a bag with its contents valued at R1 200 and a Blackberry cellphone worth R2 400 from Candice Williams.
January 10: In the Parklands area the women approached Jane Hansen and stole her bag with items valued at R1 000.
January 11: In the Breakwater parking lot at Table Bay Harbour, Tansen Hoosain’s Blackberry valued at R2 400 and her handbag were stolen.
January 12: The women were apprehended in Bothasig. - Cape Argus
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Want to go to Mars? Elon Musk says SpaceX aiming for a $500,000 trip
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012, 10:00 AM
HAWTHORNE, California -- Elon Musk says one goal for his SpaceX private space company is offering roundtrips to Mars for $500,000. It can be done, Musk told the BBC in a recent interview.
Musk provided few details about his plan for the eventual trips, but said he would reveal more in a year or less. First, Musk has to persuade NASA that his Dragon space capsule is ready for the prime time job of delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX will try to take another step toward that goal in early May when it attempts to dock an unmanned Dragon with the station.
"My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars - this is very important - so you don't have to carry the return fuel when you go there," Musk said. "The whole system [must be] reusable - nothing is thrown away. That's very important because then you're just down to the cost of the propellant.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Man back home after Dominican nightmare
March 22 2012 at 12:28pm
By Barbara Maragele
By Barbara Maragele
Simon Mottershead lived through every traveller’s nightmare when he was stuck overseas and saddled with a huge medical bill.
He returned home to Plettenberg Bay last week after he was injured and forced to remain in the Dominican Republic for five months until arrangements for the payment of his steep medical bill could be made.
Mottershead, 34, was involved in a motorbike accident, which killed his colleague who was also on the bike. His hospital bill amounted to R180 000 and he was given six months to pay this through an agreement with the hospital.
“It’s only starting to sink in now that I’m back home. After the five months of hell, I realised waiting for the insurance company to pay out could never happen and then I would be left over there barely surviving,” he said.
Mottershead left SA to travel to South America in April 2011 with a promise of a job, but this never materialised.
“I went to the Dominican Republic, where I took up a diving instructor course. I got my diving qualification, but three weeks later I was involved in a motorbike accident.
“I was returning from the dive centre on a colleague’s motorbike when we were hit by a car on the wrong side of the road. My colleague was killed and I was sent to hospital with a fractured hip, a broken femur and fractured tibia on my left leg,” he said.
Last week, an excited Mottershead was able to fly back to his parents home in Plettenberg Bay: “The money I received was just enough to cover my return. I still have the big hospital bill hanging over my head, but I’m hoping the insurance company pays out by then because I am grateful to the hospital staff who were able to save my life,” he said.
He signed a contract with the hospital in the Dominican Republic which stated that he would have to pay the full amount of the medical bill within the next two months.
Mottershead said he was requested to provide the hospital with an affidavit from a police station in SA to prove that he was unemployed.
Mottershead’s father, Malcolm Mottershead describes his son’s journey to the Dominican Republic as a chain of disastrous events from the time he left the country.
“We were lucky to have been able to give what we could so far. We decided as a family to fund him from month to month.”
When Mottershead approached the SA embassy in Puerto Rico he was told that because he had no travel insurance they couldn’t help him. - Cape Times
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Enter the Dragon, Please Take Your Seats
SpaceX Completes Important Commercial Crew Milestone
SpaceX continues to prepare for our upcoming test flight in which we will attempt to send the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. At the same time we continue making rapid progress in our efforts to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.
You may have read our update on the initial tests of the SuperDraco engines that will power the launch escape system. Recently, SpaceX completed another important milestone – the first NASA Crew Trial, one of two crew tests as part of SpaceX’s work to build a prototype Dragon crew cabin.
For this milestone SpaceX demonstrated that our new crew cabin design will work well for astronauts in both nominal and off-nominal scenarios. It also provided our engineers with the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from both NASA astronauts and industry experts.
SpaceX and NASA conducted a daylong review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout using the Dragon engineering model equipped
with seats and representations of crew systems. Photo: SpaceX
The engineering prototype includes seven seats as well as representations of crew accommodations such as lighting, environmental control and life support systems, displays, cargo racks, and other interior systems. During the daylong test, SpaceX and NASA evaluators including four NASA astronauts, participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations.
Test crew included (from top left): NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra. Photo: Roger Gilbertson / SpaceX
The seven seats mount to strong, lightweight supporting structures attached to the pressure vessel walls. Each seat can hold an adult up to 6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 lbs, and has a liner that is custom-fit for the crewmember.
With all seven crewmembers in their seats, Dragon has sufficient interior space for three additional people to stand and assist
the crew with their launch preparations.
NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk and SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager
and former NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman standing inside the Dragon spacecraft during testing activities.
In fact, Dragon has so much interior volume, that we could place an entire three-person Russian Soyuz capsule descent module inside Dragon’s pressure vessel.
SpaceX Featured on 60 Minutes
This Sunday, March 18th, SpaceX will be featured on CBS' 60 Minutes television program. Click here to preview the final piece and in the US, check your local listings for air times.
Stay tuned for more updates as we work towards making Dragon the most advanced spacecraft ever flown.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
2012 | 10 Years in Review
March 14, 2012Ten years ago today, SpaceX was founded with the goal of helping make the human race a multi-planetary species. We remain firmly committed to this goal and will do everything within our power to help make this happen.
Below we have collected some of our most memorable moments from the last ten years. As we look back, we would like to thank NASA, our customers, supporters, and those who believe in what we are working so hard to accomplish. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to an exciting future.
Elon Musk founds SpaceX in 2002 and opens our first manufacturing facility in El Segundo – at the center of Southern California’s
In 2006, NASA awards SpaceX a contract under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop the
capability to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as represented by the image shown here.
SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket becomes the 1st liquid fueled rocket developed by a private company to reach Earth orbit. This picture
shows the nozzle of Falcon 1’s upper stage engine just as it achieved orbit, nine and a half minutes after launch.
In 2008, NASA selects SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to take over the job of transporting cargo to and from
the Space Station from the retiring space shuttle. While initial flights will focus on cargo, Falcon 9 and Dragon were designed
from the beginning to transport crew; every cargo flight to the Space Station gets us one step closer to this goal.
Falcon 1 delivers its first commercial payload to Earth orbit – the RazakSAT satellite for Malaysia. In this image, you see the two
halves of the faring that covered the satellite during launch fall back to Earth after separating.
In 2010, SpaceX launches the first flight of Falcon 9, one of the most advanced rockets in the world. The first launch achieved a
nearly perfect insertion of the second stage and Dragon spacecraft qualification unit into the targeted 250 km (155 mi) circular orbit.
Also in 2010, the second flight of Falcon 9 orbits the first operational Dragon spacecraft under the NASA COTS program, and
SpaceX becomes the first private company to recover a spacecraft from Earth orbit—a feat previously only accomplished by a few nations.
The last 10 years have been an incredible experience and the next 10 promise to be just as exciting. Stay tuned for more updates on our first upcoming mission to Station, Falcon Heavy and our progress in preparing Dragon to transport crew.