MTN’s Iranian gamble can be equated to doing business with the Nazis, a top rated economist told Moneyweb in a special report podcast.
Dr Iraj Abedian, the founder and chief executive of Pan-African Capital and an Iranian by birth, also reckons that MTN, which is accused by Turkcell of committing bribery to win a 2004 Iranian cellular licence that was initially awarded to Turkcell, may well have paid a bribe to do business in Iran.
“It is a regime that has bribed its way to get the most secret of all technologies, which is nuclear technology… It is a culture, it is not a question of a bribe for many of the operators there it is the order of business, it is the only way you can do business,” said Abedian.
Adding that he sincerely hopes he is wrong but the more commentary he reads and analysts he listens to it appears “MTN has found itself in a very unfortunate corner”.
“It is a very unfortunate development for MTN. Whenever a major corporation like MTN does business in a dodgy area it is going to come back and hurt them… whether MTN has paid a bribe or not is neither here or there…”
The reality is that MTN has enabled a regime that has been fairly suppressive in terms of human rights and in terms of 30-years of continued human rights violations against its own citizens, he added.
“A county like that may give you good profits but at some or other point it is going to come back and hurt you – it is much like people who did big business, good business with the Nazis. Business was good whilst Hitler was around but the minute that the regime collapsed it backfired, or the Swiss banks who banked the Nazi money, it is a similar type of historical order of magnitude which is unfortunate for MTN”.
MTN has about 35m subscribers in the oil-rich producing country. It increased its market share in the country by 16.6%, according to its December year-end results. Revenue grew by 26.5% in the country, expenses also climbed up by 23. 6%, this is attributed to high fuel and electricity costs.
Asked why he believed Turckcell was suing MTN in an American court, Abedian said he understands that the alleged “bribe was exchanged on American land” and therefore the legal pretext is to do it there and secondly the most favourable jurisdiction for anybody who wants to sue the Iranian regime or anything to do with Iran, with a sound legal basis, would be the United States.