$14bn scandal: MTN tackles Melaye, says allegation lacks merit


MTN Group has described has baseless and untrue the accusation levelled against it by Senator Dino Melaye that the wireless carrier illegally moved almost $14 billion out of the country.

According to MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, the accusations are completely unfounded and without any merit.

The fresh accusations come a little over three months after Johannesburg-based MTN agreed to pay a 330 billion naira ($1 billion) fine in cash to the Nigerian government for missing a deadline to disconnect customers. That settlement also included a pledge to list the Nigerian unit on the local stock exchange. In July, MTN appointed units of Citigroup and Standard Bank as advisers for the listing.

MTN, Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company by sales, is accused of repatriating the funds over 10 years starting in 2006, according to Dino Melaye, the Nigerian politician who proposed the motion on Tuesday.

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The Senate will thoroughly investigate the claim, it said on its Twitter account. The four banks involved in the alleged illegal transfers are Citigroup Inc., Standard Chartered Plc, and Nigeria’s Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc and Diamond Bank Plc.

MTN is trying to repatriate $1.1 billion in profits from Iran, an issue that has burdened the company for almost four years, in part due to U.S. sanctions. Outgoing Chief Financial Officer Brett Goschen said last month that the process would take “at least five to six months” after the first tranche of funds was taken out.

MTN shares fell 0.2 percent to 119.54 rand by 9:50 a.m. in Johannesburg on Wednesday. They declined 3.4 percent after the fresh allegations were reported on Tuesday. The stock is down 37 percent since the fine was imposed in October.