Telecoms giant, the MTN Group is facing a new set of allegations in the United States.
According to Reuters, some Washington based law firms filed the new amended complaint, on Friday, as they alleged MTN’s “conduct targeted the United States” by executing a strategy reliant on dominating markets in unstable countries not allied with Washington.
The telco, which is the largest telecoms company in Africa, allegedly aided militant groups in Afghanistan, including paying protection money, in an amended lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of families of US soldiers.
The initial lawsuit was aimed at 8 multinational companies which include MTN, security firm G4S, US infrastructure group Louis Berger and consultancy Janus Global that operated in Afghanistan and Iran between 2009 and 2017.
The suit which was filed in December 2019 in the United States District Court in the District of Colombia, alleges that these companies violated the US Anti-Terrorism Act by paying protection money to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
MTN also allegedly violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by paying protection money of more than $100 million to al-Qaeda and Taliban so that its cellular towers would not be targeted for destruction. The telecoms firm deactivated those towers at night, preventing US intelligence operations,
MTN, however, has denied the allegations, asking the court to dismiss the original suit.
This appears to be another round of fresh controversy for Africa’s largest mobile operator, which has had running battles in some countries, especially with an alleged security breach.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian subsidiary was fined $5.2 billion by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2015 for partial compliance of regulatory guidelines by not disconnecting improperly registered subscribers’ identification module.
The compliance audit carried out by NCC on the network showed that 5.2 million customers lines were not deactivated as had been directed and so were fined the sum $1,000 for each unregistered SIM according to the Telephone Subscribers regulation law.
The federal government feared that this might have contributed to the security crises in the country. The fine was later reduced to $3.2 billion after pressure and negotiations with the South African government and the telecoms firm.
The telecoms giant was also criticized for its activities in Iran’s telecommunication sector. A US-based advocacy, united against nuclear Iran alleged that MTN technology is enabling the Iranian government to locate and track individual cellphone users which it says as a violation of users’ human rights.
In 2012 it was alleged that MTN Group may have been complicit in securing American telecommunications technology from sun microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems on behalf of Irancell in violation of trade sanctions against Iran.