CBN promises ‘equitable resolution’ over sanctions imposed on telecom firm MTN, banks.

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Wednesday said it has commenced a review of the information provided by telecoms giant, MTN, and four banks sanctioned recently over alleged illegal repatriation of funds.

The apex bank said the review of details submitted by the four banks, accused of helping the South African telecoms company to illegally repatriate $8.1 billion, is being done with a view to reaching an “equitable resolution.”

The central bank had on August 29 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. The development affected shares in MTN which fell nearly a third in Johannesburg stock market after the announcement.

The apex bank thereafter fined and debited the four banks including Standard Chartered PLC, fined 2.4 billion naira ($7.86 million); Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, fined 1.8 billion naira; Citibank, fined 1.2 billion naira; and Diamond Bank PLC, fined 250 million naira.

The banks in separate statements denied wrongdoings. MTN also denied any wrongdoing. Shortly after the development, Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, imposed a $2 billion tax bill on the telecoms firm. In response to the tax demand, MTN filed a lawsuit accusing Malami of exceeding his powers. The development has created ripples among experts, with concerns raised around the state of Nigeria’s business environment.

But on Wednesday, the apex bank said it is engaging and reviewing the information provided by the banks due to concerns raised after the sanctions were imposed.

MTN’s latest troubles come about two years after it agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a dispute over SIM cards in Nigeria, the telecoms giant’s biggest and by far most problematic market.

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