A subsidiary of the South African company that paid senior White House adviser David Plouffe $100,000 in 2010 to deliver two speeches stands accused by the United Nations of enriching the convicted Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, helping him to amass a fortune while hiding in exile, according to reports.
Plouffe has faced mounting criticism in recent days for profiting from a speaking gig with an affiliate of the MTN Group, a telecommunications firm that has friendly ties to a host of controversial regimes and state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, Syria, and Sudan.
Plouffe’s MTN talk occurred in December 2010, just a month before he became a senior White House official but after the appointment had been announced.
While the Obama administration quickly defended Plouffe, explaining that White House lawyers cleared the deal, foreign policy observers maintain that even cursory research would have exposed MTN’s controversial ties.
“It’s quite obvious to everyone but the White House that MTN has no soul, no morals, and will serve any client—war criminals, genocidal maniacs, terror sponsoring regimes, all of the above,” said one D.C.-based foreign policy official.
Sources said Plouffe should return the tainted money, just as he did in 2009, after he was awarded $50,000 to speak before a front group for the government of Azerbaijan.
“Even if you didn’t know at the time how bad these guys are, why aren’t you giving the money back or to charity?” asked the foreign policy official.
MTN’s ties to Liberian warlord Taylor extend back several years to when the firm entered the beleaguered African country via its affiliate, Lonestar Cell MTN, according to a report by the South African City Press. War criminal Taylor is reported to have as much as a 40 percent stake in PLC Investment Limited, which jointly owns Lonestar Cell MTN along with the Investcom group, a Lebanese investment firm now owned by the MTN Group. Lebanon’s prime minister is MTN’s largest individual shareholder.
MTN is one of the largest telecom companies operating in Africa and the Middle East, so I’ve actually owned a few of their phones and SIM cards, not to mention shelled out plenty of shekels for phone credit. Still noodling over how best to cover up my newfound complicity in war crimes.