Iran, South Africa, bribery, and cell phones. Oh my.

World Economic Forum/Eric Miller

Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, captured during the Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa, June 4, 2008.

Article Highlights

  • A Turkish mobile media giant alleges that MTN Group Ltd, Africa’s largest mobile operator, bribed Iranians.

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  • Turkcell, a Turkish mobile media giant, alleges that MTN Group Ltd sold South African votes at the IAEA and UN.

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  • Iran, South Africa, bribery, and cell phones – oh my!

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This story isn’t getting enough play, and it deserves more. Ludlum couldn’t have written it better. Here are the highlights:

In a complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri, aka Turkcell, the Turkish mobile media giant, alleges that MTN Group Ltd, Africa’s largest mobile operator, bribed Iranians, sold South African votes at the IAEA and UN, and otherwise prostituted South African foreign policy to oust Turkcell from its contract in Iran and gain the lucrative market for itself.

Wait, it gets better. There’s “Long-J,” Iran’s former deputy former minister Javid Ghorbanoghli (allegedly bribed). There’s “Short-J,” Yusuf Saloojee, South Africa’s ambassador in Tehran in 2004 (also allegedly bribed).

There’s arms for cellphone contracts—allegedly including “Denel AH-2 Rooivalk helicopters, encrypted military radios, sniper rifles, G5 howitzer artillery weapons, cannons, armored personnel carriers and radar technology.” The whole arms list was supposedly codenamed “The Fish.”

There are clandestine visits between Supreme Leader Khamenei emissary Ali Larijani to then South African President Thabo Mbeki, allegedly in 2007. And another, allegedly, from then Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Needless to say, ex-Clinton counsel Lanny Davis represents MTN’s law firm. Of course he does. Who will Angelina play? Hard to tell yet.

Read the whole story here.

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About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

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