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Illegal Fund Repatriations: MTN drags CBN, AGF to court over $10.1bn demand

MTN Nigeria has filed a suit against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney-General of the Federation to seek a restraining order.

In a suit filed in Lagos on Monday, the telecom giant is seeking an injunctive relief to protect its assets and shareholder rights.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had revealed that MTN Nigeria illegally repatriated over $8 billion from the country which is in violation of the extant Nigerian foreign exchange and anti-money laundering laws.

MTN in its earlier reaction denied any wrongdoing.

But the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele countered MTN’s denial when he declared that the apex bank examiners investigated three charges of infractions against four banks — Citibank, Diamond Bank, Stanbic IBTC Nigeria, and Standard Chartered Bank — in relation to MTN illegal repatriations

However, in a statement by MTN, the company said it continues to “categorically and unequivocally” deny all charges related to investigations by the CBN and AGF into the company’s CCIs and unpaid taxes respectively.

The CBN has alleged improper dividend repatriations by MTN Nigeria and requested that $8.1 billion be returned to the coffers of the banking regulator.

The AGF said MTN had unpaid taxes on foreign payments and imports approximately $2.0 billion.

The company said it would continue to engage with the relevant authorities on issues.

Tobe Okigbo, MTN Nigeria corporate relations executive, said, according to the statement: “The allegations being made involve issues that appear to be complex and so are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. They are made even more confusing when the relevant authorities send conflicting messages and instructions and act in a way that appears un-coordinated and at cross purposes.

The simple reality is that MTN Nigeria has never repatriated dividends on the CCIs referenced by the CBN and that MTN is fully compliant with Nigerian tax law.

With situations like this, it is vital for both the government, regulators and the company to have absolute clarity on the nature of both the allegations being made and the processes that are being followed. In the absence of this clarity, our only option is to seek judicial intervention and to ask the courts to act as adjudicator. This has been done today.”

Recall that MTN was three years ago fined $5.2 billion in Nigeria for not complying with government’s rule on deactivation of unregistered SIM cards.

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