Turkcell Sues MTN In Johannesburg Over Iran License
November 27, 2013 12:17 pm
Turkcell sues MTN in Johannesburg over Iran licence
By Andrew England in Johannesburg
Turkcell has resumed its legal battle with MTN over the South African group’s Iran operations as it filed a lawsuit in Johannesburg seeking $4.2bn in damages from its rival mobile operator.
The South African suit, which was filed on Tuesday, follows on from an attempt byTurkcellto sue MTN in a US court in which it alleged that MTN used corruption to win Iran’s second mobile phone licence in 2005.
In May, Turkcell, which had competed against MTN in the battle for the Iranian licence, asked for the case to be dismissed on the basis that the US was the wrong jurisdiction. But it said it was doing so “without prejudice to the merits of the case and to refile the case in another jurisdiction.”
Eric van den Berg, a lawyer representing Turkcell, told the Financial Times that the US and South Africa lawsuits were very similar with the Turkish company seeking that same amount in damages, while the jurisdiction was more suited to the case.
“All of the defendants are domiciled in South Africa, they do business in South Africa this is their principle place of business,” Mr Berg said.
MTN, which owns 49 per cent of Irancell, has repeatedly denied the allegations. On Wednesday, it said it could not comment on the latest legal action as it had not received or viewed the court papers.
“Although we don’t have details of the case, MTN continues to believe that there is no legal merit to Turkcell’s claim and will accordingly oppose it,” it said in a statement.
Last year, MTN launched a special committee, headed by Lord Hoffmann, a former UK judge, to investigate Turkcell’s claims.
The committee released its findings in February saying it found Turkcell’s allegations a “fabric of lies, distortions and inventions.”
But the allegations have dented MTN’s reputation and put more scrutiny on its other operations, which stretch across 22 nations, ranging from Syria and Afghanistan to Nigeria and Sudan.
Turkcell made spectacular allegations in its US lawsuit, including claims that MTN bribed officials and used its influence to get South Africa to abstain from a vote on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency. It said its South African rival created “Project Snooker” to “snooker its business competitor through these corrupt arrangements”.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Turkish operator said it was awarded the mobile licence in Iran in 2004, but “was unlawfully prevented from receiving the licence.”
“Information received by Turkcell indicates that our company’s exclusion and the signing of the licence agreement with MTN was a consequence of MTN’s illegal acts, including bribery and corruption, in 2004 and 2005,” the statement said.