The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has asked the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to deny MTN Group an injunction that would stop the telecommunication company from transferring $8.1 billion back to Nigeria, even as it seeks to charge the firm 15 percent interest on the sum.
The CBN had in late August alleged that MTN repatriated a total of $8.1 billion from the country through illegal means. It directed the telco to refund the money and imposed a fine of N5.87 billion on four banks – Standard Chartered Plc, Citigroup Inc., Stanbic IBTC Plc and Diamond Bank Plc – that allegedly aided the process.
The apex bank, in a statement last month, said it was reviewing new information provided by MTN and the four banks with a view to arriving at an “equitable resolution.”
This came after the telco dragged the CBN and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to court seeking an order restraining both parties from demanding the $8.1 billion and another $2 billion in tax arrears.
But in documents filed with the Federal High Court in Lagos by the CBN and seen by Bloomberg on Thursday, the financial regulator argued that MTN should pay 15 percent annualised interest on the sum until the courts make a judgment, and 10 percent from then until the whole amount is paid.
The transfers “may have been premeditated and contrived as a scam to make and maximize profits, defraud the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to enjoy unlimited foreign-exchange income perpetually from a single investment without complying with the foreign-exchange laws and regulations of Nigeria,” the CBN said in the documents.
With the court fillings, it appears the CBN is not prepared to back down over its allegations on the telco even as CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said after a monetary policy committee meeting last week that the dispute would soon be resolved and that “everyone will be happy.”
MTN’s shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) had plunged to the lowest level in nine years over the $10.1 billion claims. The shares further dropped for the first time in five days on Thursday by 2.5 percent to close at 87.30 rand, extending their fall since CBN made its accusations to 19 percent.
Ripples Nigeria reports that MTN’s Chief Financial Officer, Ralph Mupita, said the company may no longer seek to raise capital to finance its operations through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) due to the crisis.
IPO is the offering of stock to the public – stock market – for the first time by a private company planning to raise investment capital.
Mupita had however said the company would rather consider other options of trading its shares on Nigeria’s stock market, including listing by introduction in which existing shares are listed.
The listing of the business on NSE was part of the settlement for a $5.2 billion (N1 trillion) fine placed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for violating SIM card registration regulations in 2015 which it later negotiated down to about $1 billion.