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MTN to defend 'opportunistic' $4.2bn suit in court

Turkcell first sued MTN in a US court in 2012, alleging the company used bribery and wrongful influence to win a lucrative Iranian licence that was originally awarded to Turkcell.

MTN Africa. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - MTN sees a $4.2 billion claim by Turkcell in a South African court over a disputed Iranian mobile phone licence as “opportunistic” and “baseless”, the company said on Tuesday after filing a defence plea.

Turkcell first sued MTN in a US court in 2012, alleging the company used bribery and wrongful influence to win a lucrative Iranian licence that was originally awarded to Turkcell.

It dropped the suit a year later after US Supreme Court ruling in a separate case made clear that US courts would not have jurisdiction in a claim involving two foreign firms in an overseas dispute.

A year later it filed in South Africa, where the case has been stuck in procedural wrangling since.

“Turkcell’s claim is opportunistic, an abuse of the process of Court, baseless and without merit,” MTN said in a statement after filing a defence plea on Monday.

Turkcell was not immediately available to comment.

MTN obtained the licence in Iran in 2005 and maintains that Turkcell missed out because it would not comply with an Iranian rule that caps the shareholding in the licence at 49%.

Iran is MTN’s third largest market out of the 22 countries the company operates in.

MTN previously appointed a retired British judge to lead an external investigation into Turkcell’s allegations. That probe dismissed the accusations as “a fabric of lies, distortions and inventions”.

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