MTN facing new allegations of paying terrorist groups

A shopper walks past an MTN shop at a mall in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

MTN has a foothold in Africa as a dominant force in telecommunications. They have expanded to various markets on the continent, which contributes the majority to its bottom line. It also has an operation in the Middle East. It is due to its business in Afghanistan that the MTN Group is facing claims in the US courts that it paid protection money to terrorist groups in the Middle Eastern country.

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New reports emerged over the weekend about the allegations that MTN was aiding the Taliban and al-Queda. On this news the share price the big yellow giant fell by almost 5% on Monday.

The US intelligence agencies came to the conclusion that the group paid protection money to the Taliban in Afghanistan, further endangering the lives of US citizens who were working in the embattled region. An original suit was filed in December 2019 on behalf of the US servicemen and women, as well as civilians who lost their lives or were wounded in the area over the last decade or more.

Similar claims have been made about other western businesses. In MTN’s case though, it alleges that the group made payments to the Taliban to ensure that their telco tower infrastructure would remain undamaged – terrorist groups often target infrastructure in such war torn areas.

“We are reviewing the new material in consultation with our legal advisers but remain of the view that we conduct our business in a responsible and compliant manner in all our territories,” said MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter over the weekend.

The company had already filed a motion to dismiss in a US court back in April. According to their lawyers, the US court lacked jurisdiction over MTN and the claims weren’t made against the group itself, rather some operators on the ground. “Put simply, the plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendants in the wrong court based on insufficient allegations,” it said then.