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Turkcell takes MTN to SA court

The Turkish mobile phone company has filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit against MTN.

The Turkish mobile phone company has filed a $4.2 billion lawsuit against MTN. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Turkish mobile phone company Turkcell has taken to a South African court in its $4.2 billion lawsuit against rival MTN Group, alleging it was the victim of "corruption and bribery" that caused it to lose a contract in Iran.

Turkcell originally filed suit in a US court last year, alleging Johannesburg-based MTN used bribery and wrongful influence to win a mobile licence in Iran that was first awarded to the Turkish operator.

It dropped that suit in May after a US Supreme Court ruling in a separate case made clear that US courts would not have jurisdiction in a case involving two foreign firms in a dispute outside the United States.

In papers filed on Tuesday with the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, seen by Reuters, Turkcell claims that MTN, former CEO and current Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko and former executive Irene Charnley "acted wrongfully" and interfered with Turkcell's relationship with the Iranian government.

The alleged interference involved "corrupt acts" including "promises of bribes and the bestowing of gifts and favours to Iranian and South African Government officials," Turkcell said in its filing.

It alleged MTN also promised to "influence the South African Government with regard to the manner in which South Africa would vote on Iran's nuclear programme at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," according to the court papers.

MTN said in a statement: "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."

MTN had previously rejected the Turkcell allegations and appointed a retired British judge to lead an external investigation into them. That probe dismissed the accusations as "a fabric of lies, distortions and inventions".