A US judge has moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought against MTN Group in December 2019, alleging that the African telecoms giant paid protection money to the Taliban in Afghanistan, endangering the lives of US servicemen and women.
The suit was filed in a Washington, DC court on 27 December 2019 on behalf of American service members and civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in the troubled war-torn country of Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017.
The complaint also alleged that several Western businesses supported the Taliban by making payments to ensure the protection of their infrastructure — in MTN’s case, its cellphone towers. The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group waging a religious war, of jihad, in Afghanistan.
“The firms allegedly used a network of subcontractors and private security groups to transfer cash to Taliban agents, and in some cases dole out salaries to certain Taliban ‘guards’ between 2006 and 2014, while the group was allying with al-Qaeda and waging a violent campaign against US forces and their allies”, CNN reported at the time, quoting the details of the suit.
“Defendants decided that buying off the terrorists was the most efficient way to operate their businesses while managing their own security risks — even though doing so jeopardized other American lives,” the lawsuit said.
But MTN filed papers requesting that the US court dismiss the civil case, which had asserted claims for civil monetary relief under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.
MTN asked that the court dismiss the complaint for two reasons – that it lacks jurisdiction (MTN does not operate in the US) and that the complaint does not allege any conduct that violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.
A statement to investors, MTN said, “MTN is pleased to report that on Friday, 30 July, the magistrate judge to whom the case had been referred made a recommendation to the district judge presiding over the case to grant the motion to dismiss for all defendants in the case… The magistrate judge further concluded that the court did not have jurisdiction over MTN defendants.
“Under the US court’s procedures, the plaintiffs are permitted to file objections to the report with the district judge, and MTN defendants will have an opportunity to respond.
“MTN is in the process of studying the full report with its legal counsel. However, the company is pleased with this positive development supporting MTN’s strong defence and arguments with regards to its motion to dismiss. MTN conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will continue to defend its position where necessary.”