A civil lawsuit brought in the US says MTN paid protection money to the Taliban; and actively helped its fighters from being detected by US counter-insurgency forces
MTN, along with five other companies, have been accused in a US court; of having violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by paying protection money to the Taliban; a designated terrorist organisation known to have been working with al-Qaeda.
The Taliban was overthrown by US-led forces in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; when the US accused Afghanistan’s ruling party of harbouring those responsible for the attacks.
MTN also confirmed the lawsuit in a statement issued on Monday, December 30.
The lawsuit filed in the federal court of the District of Columbia; seeks damages on behalf of the American service members and civilians and their families; who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017.
“Defendants decided that buying off the terrorists was the most efficient way to operate their businesses while managing their own security risks; even though doing so jeopardised other American lives,” the suit reads.
MTN Group and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, MTN Dubai and MTN Afghanistan are listed as defendants.
“MTN is reviewing the details of the report and is consulting its advisers; but remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories; and so intends to defend its position where necessary,” the company said in the statement.
The lawsuit further claims that MTN has made protection payments to the Taliban from 2006; resulting in payments potentially amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
This, it is claimed, became a major source of funding for the Taliban.
“MTN was a particularly aggressive practitioner of protection payments. Rather than invest in expensive security for its transmission masts, MTN purchased security by buying it from the Taliban,” the papers states.
The lawyers representing the families base their allegations on a wide range of evidence; including confidential witnesses, internal company documents and declassified government-intelligence reporting.