South African telecoms group MTN has filed a complaint against one of Uganda’s chief magistrates after the group’s senior executives were summoned to face charges of fraud and tax evasion. MTN filed its grievance with the Ugandan judicial service, accusing the magistrate of unprofessional conduct, claiming that the 13 MTN officials called to appear before the court had not been made aware of the summons, only hearing of them through media reports.
A statement from the MTN Group said: ‘The complaint notes that the magistrate issued summons for the Directors and Executives of MTN to take a plea, yet the court record has no formal charges and the said summons were not reflected in the court record. It is further noted that the summons are dated 7th November 2012, a day after the same magistrate had transferred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations….A perusal of the summons shows that, although the order to issue them was made on the 19th November 2012, they were dated 7th November 2012. There was no charge sheet on the record nor was there a record of proceedings before her between 6th November, when she pronounced her ruling in an open court with counsel for all parties present, and 19th November, when the order was supposedly issued.’
As previously noted by CommsUpdate, MTN’s executives are charged with evading UGX70 billion (USD26.68 million) in taxes. The accusations were made by former MTN employee, Naphtal Were, who had been sacked over suspicions that he had stolen from the company. Following an investigation, Were is now facing charges for defrauding MTN Uganda of USD5 million and attempted fraud of UGX600 million. In addition, Ugandan authorities recovered eleven solar power inverters – with an estimated value of UGX140 million – believed to have been stolen from the operator.
MTN’s complaint added: ‘For the Magistrate to have allowed that obviously ill-intentioned private person to obtain criminals summons in the manner she did, thus affording him the opportunity to have the same published to the world, knowing the negative consequences that portray, demonstrates gross recklessness and absolute indifference against our client.’