• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

MTN Liberia faces sanctions amid regulatory breaches

MTNN leads laggards to erase previous gains

Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile, the largest mobile money operator in Liberia and a subsidiary of South African telecom giant MTN, has been penalised by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for multiple regulatory infractions.

According to a statement, the financial regulator imposed a substantial fine on the company, citing continuous violations of mobile money regulations and failing to meet the minimum corporate governance standards.

In a letter addressed to Rahul De, the company’s managing director, CBL noted that the company was being fined because of “continuous violations of CBL’s mobile money regulations and failure to conform to the minimum corporate governance requirements by the CBL.”

In response to the fine and directives, the CEO wrote to the CBL and appealed that the fine be waived. In another letter, the CBL rejected the appeal and reaffirmed its directives that the fine be paid immediately and that the company comply with the CBL regulations.

The CBL further stated that since MTN Mobile Money became operational, it had continuously violated the CBL regulations.

“The violation is traced to the entity’s failure to establish a separate board of directors and to also submit the full list of shareholders and all necessary documents relating to the shareholding structure of the entity, including share certificates, MTN board resolution, and details of the selection and transfer of the 20 percent share,” according to the letter issued by the CBL to De.

While sources close to CBL confirmed that the fine had been paid, it was revealed that the company had still not complied with the CBL regulations. In the second letter, the regulator warned MTN Mobile Money that further failure to comply with the timelines could result in the imposition of additional penalties.

In a related development, the local Liberian shareholders of MTN Mobile Money have sued the company in the Commercial Court of Liberia for non-compliance with their shareholder rights.

Recall that the South African telecommunications giant’s corporate conduct has been criticised by regulatory bodies in some of the African countries where it operates.

In 2017, in the Benin Republic, MTN’s refusal to pay the regulatory fees due to the Government of Benin resulted in the expulsion of the MTN Benin CEO, Stephen Blewitt (now CEO of MTN Ghana). Similarly, in January of this year, Guinea’s Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ARPT) shut down MTN’s headquarters in Conakry. According to local media reports, the Guinean regulator accused the mobile operator of non-payment of taxes, fees, and license fees.