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MTN pays off bulk of $1.5 billion Nigeria fine

South African telecoms giant MTN has paid more than three-quarters of a record $1.5-billion dollar fine levelled by Nigeria for failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers, the government said late Tuesday.

Africa’s biggest wireless operator was initially fined $3.9-billion in October 2015, after failing to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers — amid concerns the lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents.

After series of negotiations, the fine was reduced to $1.5 billion, or 330 billion naira.

“MTN has so far paid 275-billion naira to the federal government,” the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said in a statement.

With more than 80% paid, the agency said MTN has until the end of May to pay the rest.

MTN, which began operation in Nigeria in 2001, is the country’s largest operator with 53-million subscribers.

It generates almost half of its revenue in the oil-rich west African nation, and last week floated on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

READ MORE: MTN lists on Nigerian Stock Exchange

The $6-billion flotation on the Nigerian bourse was part of the agreement to resolve its disputes with the Nigerian authorities over some infractions. 

Last December, MTN agreed to pay a separate $53 million fine after being accused of illegally repatriating $8.13-billion to South Africa.

The decision to impose fines shocked MTN and its foreign investors, with four commercial banks involved in the transfer also sanctioned.

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