MTN asks US court to dismiss anti-terrorism damages claim

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Africa’s largest mobile operator MTN has filed a motion to dismiss a case against it in the US claiming civil monetary relief under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.

MTN is being accused of violating US anti-terrorism laws.

The complaint was filed in a US federal court in December on behalf of families of US citizens killed in attacks in Afghanistan.

Five other companies were also named in the filing.

Complainants allege MTN paid bribes to al-Qaida and the Taliban to avoid investing in expensive security for its transmission towers.

The alleged payments helped finance a Taliban-led insurgency that led to the attacks in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017, the accusations say.

MTN yesterday submitted its papers requesting the court to end the lawsuit and grant a judgement in the telco’s favour.

It argues the case must be dismissed for two reasons: “Because the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.”

It adds: “Under US law and procedures, MTN is not permitted at this stage of the lawsuit to challenge or contest the factual allegations made against the company, so the motion to dismiss focuses on the lack of jurisdiction and the legal insufficiency of the claims.”

MTN says it has deep sympathy for those who have been injured or lost loved ones as a result of the tragic conflict in Afghanistan.

However, it says: “The MTN defendants are not the extremists that caused plaintiffs’ tragic losses and injuries. To the contrary, MTN Afghanistan has been lauded by the World Bank for expanding telecommunications services to the impoverished people of Afghanistan and has itself been a target of violence in the devastating conflict in that war-torn country. Put simply, plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendants in the wrong court based on insufficient allegations.”

The telco, which has a global footprint in 22 countries, says it remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories “and, as reflected in the motion to dismiss, intends to defend its position accordingly”.

Ghana delivers

In the meantime, the telco announced its subsidiary in Ghana delivered a strong performance for the period in the first quarter of this year.

MTN says it is holding firm in West Africa despite macro-economic challenges arising in Ghana and Nigeria in the last month of the quarter from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the period under review, MTN’s service revenue increased by 20.4%, buoyed by double-digit growth in voice, data and Mobile Money revenue.

Voice growth went up 16.6%, driven by an increase in the number of active subscribers (+4.5%) as well as various customer value management initiatives, which MTN says helped to manage churn and support usage.

“The contribution of voice to total service revenue decreased from 47.1% to 45.6%, as other lines of revenue continued to grow faster than the traditional business in line with our revenue diversification strategy,” says MTN.

In Nigeria, MTN recorded a double-digit growth in digital and fintech revenue for three months ended March 2020, amid growing concerns surrounding the effect of COVID-19 on businesses on the continent.

The ripple effects from the COVID-19 crisis continue to spread throughout the business world, with many industries now feeling its destructive impact.

However, MTN says its digital revenue grew by 63.7%, while fintech was up by 36.1%, with an improvement in the uptake of its digital offerings in the three months.

The telco says the digital business returned to growth, “with revenue increasing 63.7% (+8% quarter-on-quarter) supported by a rich portfolio of digital products and services, and improvement in the customer journey experience”.

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