VENTURES AFRICA – Africa’s leading telecommunications provider, MTN Group is embroiled in a controversy surrounding its Liberian subsidiary, MTN Liberia (trading under the Lonestar Cell brand) as questions has been raised concerning convicted Liberian warlord Charles Taylor interests in the telecommunications company.
According to unconfirmed newspaper report from City Press, MTN Liberia’s chairperson Benoni Urey has been named by the United Nations (UN) as an accomplice of the former Liberian president and war criminal Talyor.
Urey, an MTN Liberia official, has long been connected to Taylor, and allegations has been made that MTN Liberia might be a financial vehicle for convicted warlord.
A report by TeleGeography indicate that the UN Security Council had delisted a number of former Taylor associates from its assets-freeze and travel-ban list last week, but did not strike off Urey’s name from the list.
Furthermore, the UN has withdrawn its travel ban and asset freeze on Emmanuel Shaw, Urey’s shareholder and partner in PLC Investment Limited which owns a 40 percent stake in MTN Liberia, but not for Urey.
According to the spokesperson for the company, the bans have been in place for several years and do not materially affect the carrier, City Press reported.
PLC Investment has been asked to submit its shareholding structure and open up its books to UN investigators amid suspicions that MTN Liberia, 60 percent owned by MTN Group’s Dubai-based subsidiary, Investcom, is in some way providing financial support to Taylor.
This gives credence to claims by UN officials that the war criminal may own 40 percent of PLC, giving him an indirect link to Lonestar Cell, Liberia’s leading mobile operator by subscribers.
However, MTN has denied media reports from Monrovia that the company is involved in attempts to buy Urey out of the company; according to MTN spokesperson Xolisa Vapi, “MTN is not under scrutiny concerning its partnership with Lonestar.”
Vapi also confirmed that Urey was chairman of Lonestar Cell MTN and that Shaw was a director of the Monrovia-based company.