MTN, Africa’s biggest cellphone company, moved billions of rands earned in African countries to offshore tax havens while Cyril Ramaphosa chaired the board of the mobile giant between 2001 and 2013, Amabhungane investigation revealed in a report in the Mail & Guardian.
In a report published in the M&G on Friday, Amabhungane and Finance Uncovered, a global investigative journalism network, disclosed that most of the money, which MTN badged as “management fees”, ended up on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, where the company employs no staff and appears to own little more than a postbox.
Amabhungane and Finance Uncovered stated that shortly after Ramaphosa left MTN to become South Africa’s deputy president last year, he lashed out at companies that make profits “disappear” by shifting them “to low-tax operations where there is little or no genuine activity”.
The report said MTN keeps the scale of its offshore management fees a tightly guarded secret.
MTN spokesperson Chris Maroleng told the M&G: “There is no requirement to disclose the amount of fees received by any of these companies. MTN, therefore, does not publicly disclose management fees received and paid by its group companies.”
Quoting public and secret company and government agency investigation documents from across Africa, M&G said the documents exposed the scale of the management fees, which MTN confirmed:
- A total of R3.7-billion was earmarked to flow from Nigeria to Dubai for the “ultimate benefit” of MTN International (Mauritius) from 2007 to 2013 – about 1.75% of Nigerian revenues. But MTN met resistance from the Nigerian government in 2013 and was forced to reverse R2.6-billion of this amount.
- A total of R85.6-million flowed from Uganda to Mauritius in 2009 alone. Representing 3% of Uganda’s revenues, this suggests that hundreds of millions might have flowed out over the years.
- A total of R3.7-billion went from Ghana to Dubai between 2008 and 2013, with an unknown portion flowing on to Mauritius. It’s calculated that the fees are a massive 9.6% of Ghana’s revenues in those years.
- A total of R512.9-million flowed from Côte d’Ivoire to Mauritius from 2012 to 2013. It’s estimated that the 2013 fee is 5% of the country’s revenues in that year.
For more on the detailed investigation read www.mg.co.za