MTN is in trouble again after allegations it illegally moved billions of dollars out of Nigeria

Undercover operations.
Undercover operations.
Image: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
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Africa’s largest mobile provider is facing allegations that it has illegally moved $14 billion out of Nigeria. According to reports by Bloomberg and Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, lawmakers in Nigeria’s senate have accused MTN of moving money out of Nigeria since 2006 to avoid paying tax.

Nigerian lawmaker Dino Melaye brought the matter to the senate on Sept. 27, according to Bloomberg. Melaye alleges that four banks helped MTN move the money: Citigroup, Standard Chartered, and Nigerian lenders Stanbic IBTC Holdings and Diamond Bank. The senate confirmed in a tweet that it would be investigating the matter.

“The allegations made against MTN are completely unfounded and without any merit,” MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman said in a statement on Sept. 28. Still, MTN’s share price dropped by 3.4% the previous day, according to Bloomberg. Citigroup declined to comment, and in an email to Quartz Standard Chartered said that it would cooperate with any queries from regulators, but would not give any further comment.

Last year, Premium Times published an 11-month investigation alleging that in 2013 MTN had shifted more than 11.4 billion naira ($36,206,300) from its Nigeria subsidiary to its company in Dubai. A similar-sized transfer was allegedly moved from MTN Ghana to MTN Dubai.

Last year amaBhungane, a South African investigative journalism team, uncovered that MTN was involved in shifting millions of dollars from its subsidiaries in Nigeria, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to Dubai and Mauritius, also to avoid tax obligations.

The allegations come months after MTN settled a $1.7 billion fine with Nigerian communications regulators over unregistered SIM cards. In August, parent company the MTN Group reported disappointing interim results, posting a loss of 271 cents a share.