Turkcell vs MTN: could there be a sequel?

The near-decade long legal dispute between Turkcell and South Africa’s MTN about shares in an Iranian operator may not be over yet.

As we reported recently, Turkcell and its subsidiary East Asian Consortium (EAC) had been pursuing US$4.2 billion damages from MTN since 2013, alleging impropriety surrounding the Iranian government’s 2005 decision to oust the Turkish operator as a shareholder in mobile operator Irancell and install MTN in its place. However, at the end of November a South African court threw out the case.

According to a Turkcell press release, the decision from the South Gauteng High Court of South Africa stated that Iranian law should be applied to the merits of the dispute and that the Iranian courts have jurisdiction and not the South African courts. This is on the grounds that the acts of foreign states cannot be subjected to a trial in South Africa.

Turkcell now intends to appeal this decision, insisting that South African law should be applied, and the South African courts should also have jurisdiction over the matter. It adds: “South Africa is where MTN's headquarter is located and where unlawful acts were planned and took place."

Turkcell says it will continue to enforce all its legal rights against this decision. The company continues to accuse MTN of bribery and corruption and illegally interfering with a license agreement signed with Iran.

In fact the original allegations suggest a wide-ranging conspiracy involving MTN influencing the South African government to help Iran get support for its nuclear development programme.

However, media reports indicate that Turkcell withdrew as a plaintiff two years ago; the legal action was by EAC. Will Turkcell now be involved directly?

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