$8 billion ‘Illegal’ Repatriation: Nigerian govt, MTN settle out of court

MTN Nigeria office
MTN Nigeria office

The Nigerian government and mobile telecommunications firm, MTN, have reached an out-court-settlement in a suit filed by government lawyers accusing the company of illegally repatriating $8.1 billion out of the country, lawyers told a federal court Thursday.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had accused the South African company of illegally moving the funds in contravention of foreign exchange regulations.

The bank demanded that the company return the $8.1 billion “to the coffers of the CBN.”

MTN denied any wrongdoings and filed a suit challenging the fine.

On Thursday, a Lagos division of the Federal High Court entered the settlement terms as its judgment.

Details of the settlement are not immediately known as they were not disclosed by the parties in open court.

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At the last court hearing last month, parties in the suit informed the court they were exploring an out-of-court settlement.

On Thursday, MTN’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, who led other Senior Advocates of Nigeria — Damian Dodo, Fabian Ajokwu and Adeniyi Adegbonmire — told Saliu Saidu, the judge, that parties had resolved the dispute amicably.

He said the terms of the settlement were filed on December 28 last year.

CBN’s counsel, Henry Ejiofor, confirmed that parties had settled out of court.

He urged the court to enter the terms of settlement as judgment.

The Attorney General of the Federation, represented by Olanike Idenu, did not oppose the settlement proposal.

He asked that his client’s name be struck out from the suit.

Mr Saidu thanked the parties for not wasting judicial time by going through the rigour of a trial.

He adopted the terms of settlement terms as the judgment of the court and struck out the AGF’s name from the suit.

In November last year, the Nigerian Senate had said it would demand an explanation from the federal government on claims that it wants to reduce the fine from $8.1 billion to $800 million.

According to the CBN, MTN and four banks – Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Diamond Bank – deliberately flouted the “laws and regulations…including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006.”

The banks allegedly colluded with MTN, using irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI), to illegally remit foreign exchange abroad.

The four banks were slammed a total fine of N5.87 billion.

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