Fresh details emerging from MTN have revealed that the telecommunications company chairman, Charles Mbire, has been quizzed over alleged espionage by the company staff. Sources also revealed that several other Ugandan managers have since been interrogated by the Police over the security concerns government raised.
The development comes after another MTN manager, Anthony the Katamba, was fired. Sources revealed that before Thursday’s arrest and deportation of the MTN chief executive officer, Wim Vanhelleputte, he had sacked Katamba, who has been the MTN manager for legal and corporate affairs.
“He was fired and his access card blocked. Security was also alerted not to allow him near any MTN facility. However, the reason for his firing has not been given,” revealed an insider in the telecom company.
The sacking of Katamba, according to sources, followed information from fellow employees linking him to the internal fights in the telecom company that resulted into court cases and the sacking of several other staff. Several staff who were sacked from MTN, including Richard Mwami and Patrick Sentongo, have recorded statements in which they told court that they were tortured and witchhunted by Police officers on Katamba’s orders.
Sources revealed that Mwami, who has since left MTN, last week ran to the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) seeking protection on account that his life was in danger. However, attempts to get a comment from the Police yesterday were futile as the forc’s spokesperson, Fred Enanga, said he was not on the ground, while his deputy, Polly Namaye, said she was in a meeting with the Police chief.
Four top MTN staff have since been deported over security concerns following reports that they were tapping phone calls of top government officials. Senior security sources privy to investigations said Vanhelleputte was deported after intelligence found out that three former staff who had been deported still access to Uganda MTN system. Besides Vanhelleputte, three other MTN staff have been arrested and deported. They are Olivier Alexander Benoit Prentout, a French national, who had been working as the chief marketing officer and Annie Bilenge Tabura, a Rwandan national who had been the head of sales and distribution. The third suspected spy, Elisa Muzzolini, had been heading the mobile money department.
The developments come after ISO on July 2, 2018, raided the MTN data centre in Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb, over security concerns and alleged tax evasion. During the raid, ISO operatives arrested the facility engineer, Keefa Musasizi, but later released him. The ISO boss, Col (rtd) Frank Bagyenda Kaka, said they raided the offices over security reasons.
“We did it for national security reasons. We went there lawfully. We did not break any law. We also have our footage of what transpired and we got what we wanted. It was a surgical operation and I hope it will be a landmark case after our investigations are complete,” Kaka said.
Then, ISO operatives also travelled to South Africa as part of their investigations. However, the arrests and deportations were carried out by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence in collaboration with the Police.
MTN appoints caretaker boss
MTN Uganda has appointed its Chief Technology Officer, Gordian Kyomukama, as the acting Chief Executive Officer following the deportation of Wim Vanhelleputte on Thursday night.
“To ensure business continuity, we have appointed Gordian Kyomukama, currently chief technology officer, as acting Chief Executive. Our focus continues to be on delivering the best quality products and services to our customers,” MTN said in a statement posted on the telecom’s twitter account.
MTN said it is fully committed to respecting and operating within the laws of the country and
“We are understandably concerned about these developments and we are engaging with the authorities to seek understanding that would lead us to resolving this matter.”
“MTN confirms that Mr Wim Vanhelleputte, the CEO of MTN Uganda, has been deported from Uganda. MTN has not been notified of the grounds for the deportation and is working hard to establish precise reasons for the deportation,” it added