MTN CEO responds to Irancell claims

Mobile operator MTN has been at the forefront of an on-going legal wrangle between itself and Turkcell, with the latter claiming that the mobile operator side-lined them in Iran in order to gain an operating license in the country.

MTN’s CEO Sifiso Dabengwa (image: Charlie Fripp)

MTN Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa has released a media statement, in which he denies that MTN was responsible for Turkcell losing its operators license in Iran.

“MTN did not cause Turkcell to lose “its” licence in Iran, as Turkcell claims. The Turkcell consortium was never awarded the licence in Iran. In 2004, a consortium that included Turkcell was pre-selected through a bid process to be awarded the second mobile licence. However, certain conditions set by the Iranian government and the regulator needed to be fulfilled. Those conditions were never met,” he said in the statement.

Dabengwa went on to explain that it wasn’t MTN’s doings for the failed bid, and detailed the process that was followed in order to secure the license for MTN.

“It was Turkcell’s own failures to meet Iranian legal and commercial requirements that caused its exit from the licence process. In September 2005, the Ministry of ICT authorised the Iranian consortium partners to negotiate with MTN, the runner up in the bid process. As a result, a consortium that included MTN as the non-controlling shareholder was awarded the licence.”

He reiterated that Turkcell’s failure to obtain the licence as a result of any alleged corrupt or improper practices by MTN is simply unfounded. Dabengwa went on to say that it’s ludicrous to imply that MTN influenced South African foreign policy, a fact that has already been refused by the South African government.

“Of particular concern are the allegations that accuse MTN of complicity in human rights abuses in Iran.  Such allegations are both false and offensive. MTN’s views on human rights are crystal clear. Civic and human rights are central to us as a company, and as individuals. We have clear ethical standards and we expect the people we do business with to abide by them. MTN has established an Ethics Committee with responsibility for guiding the company’s approach to such issues and ensuring that it follows best international practices.”

He also addressed the issue of technical equipment that was provided by MTN to Irancell, which factions have claimed will enhance Iran’s power to spy on subscribers.

“I can emphatically state that whatever equipment MTN has acquired for Irancell was for normal business reasons.  This equipment is of identical specification to that used in our other MTN operations.   To suggest that we intended to acquire such equipment with the purpose of enhancing the Iranian government’s capacity to monitor its citizens outside the law or restrict their access to services is offensive”.

“Our core belief is that people, irrespective of the governments they live under, gain from being participants in this technological revolution.  Excluding them from the benefits of this new technology because of their government’s policy is no answer.  My role is to drive forward our business for the benefit of customers, communities and shareholders. Nothing in the current media focus will distract us from pursuing the huge opportunities for the company to build on our past success, and reinforcing our position as the developing world’s leading telecoms company,” he concluded.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor