* Court stays ruling on MTN motion to dismiss
* To wait for outcome of Kiobel case
* Both cases use Alien Tort Statute
By David Dolan
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 13 A U.S. court has delayed
ruling on a $4.2 billion suit by Turkish mobile operator
Turkcell against South African rival MTN Group
, pending a Supreme Court decision on a separate case,
the two companies said.
Turkey's largest cell phone operator sued MTN in a U.S.
federal court in March, alleging the Johannesburg-based company
used bribery and attempted trafficking of political influence to
win a mobile licence in Iran that was first awarded to Turkcell.
MTN has asked for the case to be dismissed, saying the suit
has no legal merit and a U.S. court does not have jurisdiction
over the case.
The court has put the suit on hold, the two companies said
in separate statements late on Friday, to await a Supreme Court
decision on a different case using the Alien Tort Statute - the
human rights law on which Turkcell's suit is based.
This month the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in
Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, a high-profile case where
12 Nigerians accuse the Anglo-Dutch oil company of complicity in
human rights abuses in the African country.
The Supreme Court will decide in the Kiobel case whether the
Alien Tort Statute - an 18th century law that has usually been
reserved for human rights abuses - can be used to sue foreign
corporations in U.S. courts.
Whether or not the Turkcell can proceed in its U.S. lawsuit
is likely to be dependent on the ruling in the Kiobel case,
legal experts have said.
Turkcell said in a statement it welcomed the decision,
adding it believed U.S. courts had clear jurisdiction over the
MTN said it expected Turkcell's claim to be disposed of
after the Supreme Court issues its decision in Kiobel.
It was not immediately clear for how long the suit would be
put on hold. Turkcell said the suit would be pushed back by
several months, while MTN said a decision in Kiobel was likely
to happen by the end of June 2013.
Several U.S. legal experts have told Reuters that Turkcell
may not get much further with the suit because the case has only
tenuous links to the United States.
Turkcell was originally awarded a mobile licence in Iran in
2004 before a disagreement over the terms of the deal prompted
an about-face by Tehran, which awarded MTN the licence in 2005.
Turkcell says MTN lobbied the South African government to
support Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for winning the
contract, and bribed officials from both governments.
MTN has denied the charges.
MTN now draws nearly 10 percent of its revenue from Iran,
although it has been unable to get money out of the country for
months due to tightening U.S. sanctions.
The company has said it is in talks with South African and
U.S. officials about moving money out of Iran. Washington is
putting increasing pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme,
which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)