South African telecoms giant MTN on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 denied an allegation that it had illegally repatriated $13.92 billion from Nigeria, saying the claim was without merit.
Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, shocked the nation when he accused South African telecommunication giant, MTN, of gross money laundering.
Melaye who made the revelation under order 42 of the Senate rule, on Thursday, September 22, 2016 was “particularly pained”, saying that at the crucial moment when the nation is plagued with economic challenges, all hands must be on deck to recover every loot in the country.
Speaking further, the senator revealed that, “between 2006 and 2016, the MTN Nigeria, in collaboration with four commercial banks and with the help of a serving minister, has moved over $12 billion out of this country”.
Melaye said that MTN illegally repatriated the money between 2006 and 2016 in violation of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous) Act.
He accused “some influential and unpatriotic Nigerians” including the minister of industry, trade and investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, of working with MTN to transfer the huge amount out of Nigeria.
The Senate resolved on Tuesday to investigate the allegation leveled against MTN.
“The allegations made against MTN are completely unfounded and without any merit,” MTN Nigeria chief executive, Ferdi Moolman said in brief statement on Wednesday.
The allegation threatens to raise tensions between Nigeria and MTN just three months after the South African firm agreed to pay a reduced fine of N330 billion in a settlement with Abuja over unregistered SIM cards.
MTN is the largest mobile phone operator in Nigeria, which accounts for around one third of the company’s revenues. The company had threatened to pull out of Nigeria during the dispute over unregistered SIM cards.
“It’s not a good development but it may stem from the forex crunch in Nigeria. They don’t want forex to leave the country unnecessarily,” said Cobus de Hart, an analyst at NKC African Economics.
“It highlights the fact that the Nigerian central bank wants to maintain a firm grip on the forex market and this will obviously not bode well for investor sentiment,” he said.
MTN shares fell more than 3 percent on Tuesday but opened 1 percent firmer on Wednesday.
Additional reports from Reuters