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MTN Didn’t Bribe for Turkcell’s Iran License, Report Says

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone operator, didn’t break the law to obtain a wireless-service license in Iran, according to the findings of an internal investigation.

MTN-appointed investigators, led by former U.K. House of Lords Judge Leonard Hoffmann, found no evidence of bribes or promises to get the South African government to support Iran’s nuclear policy at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the company said today in a statement.

Turkcell Iletisim Hismet AS is suing MTN in the U.S. for $4.2 billion, alleging it bribed officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and South African leaders, and promised Iran weapons and United Nations votes in exchange for a license to provide mobile-phone service in Iran. Turkey’s largest mobile-phone company said it was initially awarded the license, which was then given to MTN in 2005.

“MTN did the right thing,” Steve Minnaar, a portfolio manager at Abax Investments who helps oversee $6.7 billion, said by phone from Cape Town. “We’re not entirely surprised by the outcome. Not because it’s from an MTN-appointed committee, but because the nature and extent of the allegations seemed spurious and vindictive.”

The report doesn’t change the court proceedings and the case will continue, David Farber, Turkcell’s U.S. counsel, said by mobile phone from Washington D.C. today.

U.S. Decision

The Turkish company contends the 1789 Alien Tort Statute gives it the right to sue MTN in American courts, a stance opposed by MTN. Reggie Walton, a U.S. district court judge, decided on Oct. 12 to put the case on hold pending a Supreme Court ruling.

Turkcell’s allegations are “a fabric of lies, distortions and inventions,” according to the statement on the Hoffmann Committee findings. There was no conspiracy between MTN and Iranian officials, it said.

MTN rose as much as 1.6 percent and was up 0.2 percent to 175.50 rand by 4:09 p.m. in Johannesburg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaco Visser in Johannesburg at avisser3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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