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MTN faces multiple court actions as US court puts on hold Turkcell $4.2b lawsuit

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Africa’s biggest mobile operator, MTN Group is facing multiple law suits across countries. It has been sued in the US and in Ghana, and it is being investigated in South Africa for the same reason that it is being sued in the US, media reports say.

A US court hearing a case of bribery and other underhand dealings against MTN has put proceedings on hold, South African media has reported.

Citing the MTN Group, news sources say that the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a high profile case against Royal Dutch Shell this October. The final decision on the case may determine whether foreign corporations can be sued in US courts under an 18th Century law.

According to the reports, the outcome of that decision is likely to determine whether Turkcell can go ahead with its suit against MTN. The Turkish mobile operator claims that MTN used bribes and other underhanded means to obtain its license in Iran, which was originally awarded to Turkcell.

In court papers filed in the US, Turkcell alleged that MTN bribed government officials from both Iran and South Africa to win the bid.

In Ghana, a lawyer, Dr.  Raymond Atuguba, a law lecturer at the University  of Ghana, Legon has sued the company for cutting his services.

On September 27, 2012, the Accra Fast Track High Court hearing the case ordered the arrest of MTN’s Ghana CEO Michael Ikpoki and two other officials after they failed to appear in court. The others are, the Customer Relations Executive, Ms Jemima Kotei and the Chief Technical Officer, Mr Jon Hoffman.

The court however, rescinded the decision to arrest the three and awarded cost of GH¢1,000 against them for disobeying its orders to restore mobile telecommunications service to an aggrieved customer.

The court rescinded its decision after lawyers for the respondents pleaded for revision of the court’s order.

In August a small South African technology firm, 3MFuture Africa whose innovation was found to have been annexed wrongly by Standard Bank and MTN succeeded in obtaining a court judgement against the two big companies.

The Cape Town based company brought a patent infringement lawsuit against Standard Bank and MTN in the Patent Court in Pretoria.

The court ruled Friday August 31, 2012 that Standard Bank and MTN had infringed 3MFuture Africa’s payment card security technology patent, a locally-developed innovation that allows users to switch their payment cards on and off with their cellphones – thereby eliminating the problems of card cloning, skimming and theft.

Meanwhile, The Hawks, the elite unit of the South African police is also investigating allegations of corruption at MTN Group, according to the Reuters news service.

The report citing a spokesman of the Hawks says the investigation is related to MTN’s purchase of a mobile license in Iran.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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