Turkcell accuses MTN of bribery in Iran

Turkish operator Turkcell is seeking damages from African operator group MTN for alleged illegal acts relating to its GSM licence in Iran. The Turkish firm said it has filed a lawsuit against MTN before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Turkcell was awarded Iran’s first private GSM licence in 2004, but claims that it was unlawfully prevented from receiving the licence.

It filed a $4.2bn lawsuit in Washington DC last year alleging that MTN “engaged in acts of corruption and bribery to steal Turkcell’s award of the Iranian GSM telecommunications license in 2004 and 2005”.

Turkcell added that “MTN’s promises of military arms and International Atomic Energy Agency votes plus its payment of multiple bribes are more than adequate to support the American court’s jurisdiction over the case under the Alien Tort Statute.”

The Turkish operator said its claim was supported by “sworn testimony from MTN’s own director of Iran operations detailing MTN’s extraordinary tortious corruption and bribery in violation of the law of nations”.

MTN responded at the time by saying the firm has “never conspired with suppliers to evade applicable US sanctions on Iran nor had a policy to do so”. It said it only purchases equipment from turnkey vendors that are required to comply with US and EU sanctions.

Turkcell dropped last year’s lawsuit after a US Supreme Court ruling in a separate case stated that US courts would not have jurisdiction in a matter involving two foreign firms in a dispute outside the United States. However, the firm has now taken the case to the South African courts.

“Turkcell yesterday filed a law suit against MTN before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, seeking damages,” the firm wrote on its Twitter account.

“Despite its successful bid, Turkcell was prevented from receiving Iran’s first private GSM license due to MTN’s unlawful actions. The filing of the lawsuit in South Africa is in continuation of the legal process that was initiated in US courts.”

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