Arrest in $3,8m MTN fraud probe
The mobile operator’s Ugandan subsidiary appears to have been taken for a ride by one of its suppliers after allegedly receiving falsified invoices worth millions of dollars for equipment it never received. By Craig Wilson.
MTN Uganda has uncovered what it calls “irregular payments” totalling US$3,8m and has reported the matter to local police. The payments pertain to invoices for equipment the network never actually received.
Uganda’s The Monitor newspaper reported at the weekend that MTN Uganda had been defrauded to the tune of $3,8bn for undelivered network equipment, but the actual figure is $3,8m, according to an MTN spokesman.
The company accused of the con is Threeways Shipping Services. Allegedly, the company submitted numerous fabricated shipping invoices to the mobile operator starting in 2009.
A Ugandan court has blocked a number of accounts while the matter is being investigated. MTN Uganda filed a complaint with the directorate of criminal investigations on 15 August.
Threeways Shipping Services, meanwhile, has claimed it is unaware of any fabricated invoices and that the matter is an “issue of reconciliation” between the two companies.
On Monday, one of MTN Uganda’s accountants, John Basabose, was arrested following a petition to the police for his arrest and for two of his bank accounts to be blocked after one of them was used to purchase treasury bills worth 1,45bn Ugandan shillings (about R4,8m).
An analyst, who can’t be named as he is prohibited by company policy from commenting to the media, says the implications of the alleged fraud news for MTN are likely to be minor.
He says this sort or insider pilfering is inevitable at large companies. What is more worrying, he says, is that the allegations may indicate a broader trend.
The ongoing saga concerning MTN and alleged bribery of Iranian officials is far more worrying to investors because it could suggest that similar practices have been undertaken in other regions, the analyst says.
Furthermore, if MTN landed on a US list of sanctioned companies because of its dealing in Iran, it would have an impact on the company’s future growth prospects and undermine its ability to procure services and equipment from US vendors and manufacturers. However, the analyst cautions that it is unlikely that this will happen. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media
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