Fact Check: MTN’s Iran Connections Known Before Plouffe Speech

White House Spokesman Jay Carney Denied That White House Advisor David Plouffe Should Have Known About MTN’s Connections To Iran, Saying It Was “Several Years Ago Prior To The Dynamic We Have Now With In Regards To Sanctions And Companies Like This.” ABC’S JONATHAN KARL: “President Obama came into office talking about a higher standard. Is there any concern about this kind of, you know - $100,000 in Nigeria to a South African company. I mean it was widely reported, it had been reported even in The New York Times that they had business dealings with Iran. Is there any concern at all about this?” WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: “I’m not sure I understand the nature of your question. This was prior to David Plouffe coming to office here working in the White House. It was before the watchdog group had even made an issue of this particular holding company. And again, this is political criticism after the fact that’s clearly designed to try to score some points when this was several years ago prior to the dynamic we have now with in regards to sanctions and companies like this.” (White House Press Briefing, Washington, D.C., 8/6/12)

The White House Spin Ignores MTN’s Long-Known History Of Aiding The Iranian Regime’s Crackdown On Its Own People

November 2005 – MTN Group Reaches A Deal With Iran’s Government For A Cellphone License And 49 Percent Stake In Irancell. “MTN paid (EURO)300m for the second cellphone license in Iran after it agreed with local shareholders to take a 49% stake in IranCell. Iran’s government was in the process of issuing the license, said MTN, whose shares hit a fresh high of R61,70 on the news.” (Lesley Stones, “MTN’s Iran Deal Bulks Up Share Price,” Business Day [South Africa], 11/23/05)

2006 – In State Department Cables MTN’s Iranian Affiliate, MTN Irancell, Was Referred To As Being “Fully Owned” By The Iranian Revolutionary Guard. “In 2006, Stuart Levey, then undersecretary of the Treasury and the point man on Iran sanction enforcement in the Bush administration — a job he also held for two years under Obama — told Turkish officials that Irancell was ‘fully owned’ by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a State Department cable made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.” (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, “Obama Associate Got $100,000 Fee From Affiliate Of Firm Doing Business With Iran,” The Washington Post, 8/6/12)

May 2008 – The New York Times Reported That MTN’s Business Interests In Iran, Syria And Sudan Were Threatened By U.S. Restrictions Against The Oppressive Regimes. “Having broken off talks with one suitor and quickly found another, the South African mobile phone operator MTN Group could still face obstacles to any deal from an unlikely corner: U.S. regulators, who prevent American companies from facilitating business in Iran, one of MTN’s fastest growing markets. … MTN’s business in Iran is new but growing quickly. At the end of 2007, MTN had six million subscribers in Iran, about 9 percent of its total customers, up from just 154,000 at the end of 2006. Revenue from Iran increased 1,642 percent in the 12 months ended December and now represents 2 percent of overall revenue. MTN also had 2.1 million customers in Sudan at the end of 2007, where the United States and the European Union have imposed some restrictions, and 3.1 customers million in Syria, where the United States has some financial restrictions. Sudan contributed 2 percent of 2007 revenues, and Syria 6 percent.” (Heather Timmons, “MTN Search For Partner Could Face Obstacles From U.S.,” The New York Times, 5/26/08)

September 2008 – The Treasury Department Places Sanctions On The Property And Interests Of Iran Electric Industries, The State-Linked Stakeholder In MTN Irancell. “IRAN ELECTRONICS INDUSTRIES (a.k.a. IEI; a.k.a. Sanaye Electronic Iran; a.k.a. Sasad Iran Electronics Industries; a.k.a. Sherkat Sanayeh Electronics Iran), Company Registration Number: 829; P.O. Box 19575-365, Shahied Langari Street, Noboniad Sq, Pasdaran Ave, Saltanad Abad, Tehran, Iran; P.O. Box 71365-1174, Hossain Abad/Ardakan Road, Shiraz, Iran [NPWMD]” (“Additional Designation Of Entities Pursuant To Executive Order 13882,” Department Of The Treasury, 10/28/08)

·         A 2008 Document From MTN Irancell Specifically Addressed Acquiring Embargoed Products. “For example, Reuters reviewed an 89-page MTN Irancell document from 2008 that shows the telecom carrier was specifically interested in acquiring embargoed products. The document spells out the requirements of a managed-services contract it ultimately awarded to Huawei Technologies Co, China’s largest telecom-equipment maker. In a section on managing product-support agreements for third-party equipment, the MTN Irancell document states, ‘This should include embargo items.’” (Steve Stecklow, “Exclusive: Iranian Cell-Phone Carrier Obtained Banned U.S. Tech,” Reuters, 6/4/12)

June 2009 – Obama Was Silent While Iranian Government Arrested And Murdered Peaceful Iranian Protestors During The Green Revolution. “You hear the greatest letdown on Iran. Reform-minded Muslims are disappointed that Obama has been reluctant to lead an international campaign against the Iranian regime…Obama has carefully calibrated his comments to the Iranian government’s increasing repression.” (William Schneider, “A Too-Careful Approach On Iran?” National Journal, 7/18/09)

June 2009 – MTN Denied Reports That Its Network In Iran Was Blocked After The Disputed Presidential Election. “‘MTN network is running in Iran and there is nothing wrong with it,’ MTN Group spokeswoman Nozipho Januray-Bardill said. Local media reported on Wednesday that MTN may lose at least a month’s revenue in Iran, its third largest market, after the government blocked cellular network signals following a disputed June 12 election. The Iranian government blocked SMS text messages during polling after opposition candidates used them to galvanise key young voters during a fiercely contested election campaign, and Internet and mobile phone communications have been severely disrupted since. Domestic and international media have also been restricted. MTN Group owns 49 percent of MTN Irancell, which was launched in late 2006 as Iran’s No. 2 cellular operator. Some investors deemed the expansion risky, given the country’s nuclear stand-off with the West. MTN, which operates mobile phone networks across Africa and the Middle East, has more than 16 million customers in Iran and says the country has major growth potential.” (“S. Africa’s MTN Denies Report Iran Network Blocked,” Reuters, 6/24/09)

August 2009 – MTN-Owned Irancell Warned Customers That It Would Be Experiencing “Technical Problems” For Three Days, Which Coincided With Upcoming Protests Against The Iranian Regime. “The nation is bracing for further confrontations between security forces and supporters of Mousavi this week as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s parliament confirm Ahmadinejad for a second term. One of the country’s main cellphone operators, Irancell, co-owned by South Africa’s MTN, warned customers Sunday that it would be suffering unspecified “technical” problems over the next three days, which coincide with the anticipated unrest. (Borzou Daragahi, “Iran Court Warns Against Criticizing Proceedings,” Los Angeles Times, 8/3/09)

March 2010 – The New York Times Reported That The Iranian Government Had Stepped Up Its “Cyberwarfare” Against Its Own People By Slowing The Internet “To A Crawl,” Blocking Opposition Websites, And Jailing Cyber Experts For “Waging War Against God.” “In recent months the government slowed the Internet to a crawl, so that users were unable to perform the simplest operations, like opening Gmail or Yahoo accounts. It has become impossible to post a video, and opposition Web sites have been blocked. The government has also jammed opposition and news satellite channels, including Persian-language Voice of America television and BBC Persian, which were watched by millions. The government has jailed many cyberexperts in recent months, charging some with ‘waging war against God,’ potentially a capital crime, for sending political e-mail messages. This month Parliament announced a $500 million budget for cyberwarfare, the Fars news agency recently reported.” (Nazila Fathi, “Iran’s Opposition Seeks More Help In Cyberwar With Government,” The New York Times, 3/19/10)

October 2010 – It Is Announced That David Plouffe Will Return To The White House In Early 2011. ABC’S GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:“David Plouffe, the President’s campaign manager back in 2008, he’s gonna be coming into the White House. Some time next spring, David Axelrod, his strategic message guru, is gonna leave, go back to Chicago to work on the next reelection campaign.” (ABC’s “Good Morning America,” 10/1/10)

December 2010 – David Plouffe Receives $100,000 For Speaking Before MTN Nigeria’s Life Enrichment Seminar. (“Personal Financial Disclosure: David Plouffe,” The White House, Signed 1/10/11)

·         In December 2010, David Plouffe Was Paid $100,000 By MTN Nigeria For A Speech He Gave In Logos, Nigeria. “Considered the prime facilitator in Washington for those seeking to ”monetize” their political service, Mr. Barnett negotiated a reported seven-figure book advance for Mr. Plouffe and set him up for speaking gigs. Mr. Plouffe earned $1.5 million in 2010, according to White House disclosure statements, which included management consulting work for Boeing and General Electric, and close to $500,000 for speeches around the world, including $100,000 from MTN Nigeria, an African telecommunications firm.” (Mark Leibovich, “From Knife Seller To The President’s Hard Edge,” The New York Times, 2/20/12)

2012 – “MTN Executives Denied Violating Any Sanctions But Acknowledged That They Have Been In Discussions With Administration Authorities For Months.” (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, “Obama Associate Got $100,000 Fee From Affiliate Of Firm Doing Business With Iran,” The Washington Post, 8/6/12)

  1. rncresearch posted this