Reuters

The MTN Logo
The MTN Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By David Dolan

JOHANNESBURG | Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:00am EDT

(Reuters) – Shares in MTN Group (MTNJ.J) slid on Friday after rival Turkcell (TCELL.IS) filed a $4.2 billion suit against the South African mobile operator, alleging it bribed officials and lobbied support for Tehran‘s nuclear program to win an Iranian license.

Turkcell, which lost the 2004 bid for the Iranian license to MTN, filed the suit in a U.S. federal court in Washington, accusing the Johannesburg-based firm of using its influence with Pretoria to arrange support for Iran’s military.

The Turkcell case threatens to tarnish the reputation of both MTN – a black-run company widely seen as a post-apartheid success story – and the South African government, including former President Thabo Mbeki.

It comes at a time when countries around the world, including South Africa, are under strong Western pressure to halt oil imports from Iran and cut other trade.

MTN, Africa’s top mobile operator, has said the claim is without legal merit and has accused Turkcell of attempting to extort money from it – an allegation the Turkish company rejects.

Turkcell’s suit, backed by a collection of alleged MTN internal documents including emails, invoices, memos and presentations, accuses the South African firm of a “staggeringly brazen orchestra of corruption”.

Turkey’s largest mobile operator alleges that under a strategic plan code-named “Project Snooker”, MTN used corrupt practices to win the license which had initially been awarded to Turkcell…Read more.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by David Holmes)