South Africa’s MTN chairman said on Thursday that accusations that Africa’s biggest mobile operator had moved funds illegally out of Nigeria had no basis.
According to a report by Reuters, MTN said it was not in anyway involved in illegal dealings.
MTN is facing an investigation by Nigerian lawmakers for allegedly illegally repatriating $14 billion between 2006 and 2016.
MTN has denied any wrongdoing and has also stated that it did not break Nigeria’s funds transfer rules.
MTN, the largest mobile phone firm in Nigeria, threatened to pull out of the country last year during a dispute over unregistered SIM cards before the government agreed to reduce a settlement on the issue by nearly 70 per cent to $1 billion.
The company now faces another potentially hefty penalty if an investigation by Nigeria’s upper house of parliament finds evidence that MTN Group Ltd illegally transferred the funds out of the West African country between 2006 and 2016, as alleged.
In MTN’s defence, Adebayo Shittu has urged the country’s lawmaker not to chase away the telecommunication company.
“Nobody will say that MTN is not important to Nigeria – we must encourage them, we must not scare them away from Nigeria,” Shittu told Reuters in an interview.
“The presumption is that they are innocent and we pray they remain innocent,” Shittu said, referring to the investigation. “They must stay.”
“They have a right to repatriate their profits as long as it is legitimately done,” said Shittu, adding that any time MTN is suspected of breaking the law it will be investigated, though the “facts against them must be established beyond reasonable doubt.”
“Everyone who is in business will have ups and downs. You don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater.”
Shittu said the investigation was an issue for financial regulators and did not fall within his “constitutional responsibility.”