MTN’s $8bn 'illegal' foreign exchange scandal

It has been one of the biggest African business stories of 2018.

In August, the Nigerian government ordered South African telecoms giant MTN to return $8.1 billion in allegedly illegal foreign exchange repatriations made over the past 15 years.

The announcement sent MTN’s share price tumbling on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and sank its plans to list in Nigeria.

Several banks – including the UK’s Standard Chartered’s Nigerian subsidiary – were also fined for their alleged role.

A few months earlier, Finance Uncovered exclusively obtained the confidential audit report on MTN’s foreign exchange trades, which the Nigerian government later acted on.

The audit centred on foreign exchange declarations the banks issued to MTN, for whom Nigeria is the biggest and most lucrative market.

While it made no allegations of wrongdoing against MTN, the audit’s claims raise questions about whether MTN knew about its bankers’ alleged violation of Nigerian laws and even if it might have benefitted from this.

MTN said it “has not at any material time participated in any improper repatriation of funds from any jurisdiction”. Standard Chartered declined to comment.

This is our story, published in conjunction with amaBhungane (South Africa) and Satellite Times (Nigeria).

Nigerian bank investigation could embroil MTN, Ramaphosa

[amaBhungane (South Africa), 16 March 2018]