MTN denies two-month old Turkcell charges


South Africa's MTN on Thursday denied allegations it used corrupt practices and promises of weapons to win its licence in Iran, the first time the mobile operator has clearly rejected two-month old charges from rival Turkcell.

"Any suggestion that Turkcell's failure to obtain the licence was as a result of any alleged corrupt or improper practices by MTN is unfounded," MTN's CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said in a statement.

"The allegation that MTN influenced South African foreign policy with regard to its armaments and nuclear position is simply ludicrous and has already been dismissed by the South African government."

MTN first said in February that it faced a suit from Turkcell claiming it bribed officials and asked South Africa to provide weapons to Iran and take a soft stance on Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for the licence.

Turkey's largest mobile operator initially won a bid for the licence in 2004. Tehran later backed out of the deal and awarded the business to MTN in 2005.

Turkcell filed a $4.2 billion suit against MTN in a U.S. court late last month.

MTN has said the case lacked legal merit, but had previously stopped short of a full denial.

Former CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, who headed the company at the time, has denied that he authorised bribes to Iranian and South African officials for the licence.

He has also said the company was not in a position to influence decisions made by governments.

Pretoria has said that its foreign policy is independent.

The lawsuit threatens to tarnish MTN's reputation as a post-apartheid success story.