MTN has denied paying bribes to secure a lucrative cellphone licence in Iran after it was initially given to Turkcell.

The Turkish company has accused MTN of paying bribes to South African and Iranian officials to secure the multibillion-dollar contract.

Former South African ambassador to Iran Yusuf Saloojee appeared in court on Friday for allegedly taking a bribe in 2016 in connection with the deal.

MTN has consistently denied that there’s any evidence that it gave Saloojee money. The company says the allegations appear to be based on the word of a single witness whose allegedly a disgruntled former employee of MTN.

The multinational mobile telecommunications company is subject to an investigation by the Hawks over allegations of corruption regarding the awarding of the contract to operate in Iran worth approximately $31 billion.

Turkcell has filed a lawsuit against MTN and is demanding $4.2 billion in damages.

Saloojee allegedly received kickbacks to help facilitate the cancellation of the licence – which was initially awarded to the Turkish operator – but then given to MTN.

The former ambassador is accused of pocketing R1.4 million for his role in the deal.

Saloojee is currently out of R4,000 bail and will be back in court in April.