Nigeria's central bank says reviewing information to resolve $8.1 bln MTN repatriation
(Adds comment, background)
By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Nigeria's central bank is
reviewing information provided by MTN and four banks
accused of helping the South African telecoms company to
illegally repatriate $8.1 billion, with a view to reaching an
equitable resolution, it said on Wednesday.
Nigeria, which accounts for a third of MTN's annual core
profit, is MTN's biggest market, but has proved to be
problematic in recent years during which there have been
multiple allegations of infractions.
The central bank on Aug. 29 said it had ordered MTN and the
four banks to bring $8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it
alleged the telecoms firm sent abroad in breach of foreign
exchange regulations. Shares in MTN fell nearly a third in
Johannesburg in the days after the announcement.
It also fined the banks. Standard Chartered PLC was
fined 2.4 billion naira ($7.86 million), Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC
1.8 billion naira, Citibank 1.2 billion naira
and Diamond Bank PLC 250 million naira.
MTN has denied any wrongdoing and the banks have said they
are in talks with the regulator.
"In response to the recent regulatory actions, the banks and
MTN are engaging the CBN and have provided additional
information which is currently being reviewed with a view to
arriving at an equitable resolution," the central bank said on
Wednesday in an emailed statement.
The statement gave no details on what an "equitable
resolution" would entail.
MTN declined to comment in response to the central bank
A spokeswoman for Citibank declined to comment, as was the
case with a Diamond bank spokesman.
Representatives of Stanbic IBTC Bank and Standard Chartered
did not immediately respond to text messages and phone calls
requesting a comment.
Nigeria's financial regulator, in Wednesday's statement,
said it would continue to welcome foreign investments, and that
the sanctions imposed on the banks were not designed to restrict
access to investor returns.
"The CBN welcomes all legitimate investors to take advantage
of the enormous investment opportunities in Nigeria," it said.
Nigeria's attorney general imposed a $2 billion tax bill on
the telecoms firm days after the central bank's allegation that
money was illegally taken out of the country.
In response to the tax demand, MTN filed a lawsuit in
Nigeria last week against the attorney general. Court documents
seen by Reuters show the telecoms firm has accused him of
exceeding his powers.
MTN's latest troubles come about two years after it agreed
to pay more than $1 billion to settle a dispute over SIM cards
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh;
Additional reporting and writing by Alexis Akwagyiram;
Editing by John Stonestreet and Alison Williams)
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