A BBC investigation has exposed evidence of bribery at British American Tobacco. BAT illegally paid politicians and civil servants in countries in East Africa. The payments were revealed when a whistle blower shared hundreds of secret documents.
The whistle blower, Paul Hopkins said, “My job was to make sure the competition never got a breathing space.” Paul Hopkins worked for BAT in Kenya for 13 years and begun paying bribes after being told it was the cost of doing business in Africa.
BBC’s evidence indicates that BAT money has been used to:
- Corrupt national parliaments;
- get information on – and make changes to – tobacco control legislation;
- get market information and intelligence to undermine competitors;
In return for the illegal payment to a Burundian senior civil servant, BAT wanted a draft copy of the country’s Tobacco Control Bill. An email from a contractor working for BAT says the official would be able to “accommodate any amendments before the president signs”.
Under the UK Bribery Act, British companies can be prosecuted for bribery anywhere in the world if they fail to take steps to prevent it. BAT could also face prosecution and huge fines in the US. Bribery expert Jeremy Carver said: “It will set inquires in train about their operations globally, so that suddenly everything they’re doing all over the world is now being scrutinised and not just by prosecutors in this country but in the United States and anywhere they are operating.”
BAT sells its cigarettes in practically every country in the ASEAN region, with dominant market share in Malaysia (62%), and significant market share in Cambodia (40%) and Vietnam (26%). Advocates are calling for BAT to be investigated and prosecuted. ASEAN countries also have anti-corruption laws which can be applied for any corrupt practices involving bribery to public officials.
Watch this space for more information to come
For information on TI denormalization, check out SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Watch website.
Previous ASEAN Tobacco Watch updates can be found here.