The industry engages personalities of influence into their companies as directors or similar decision-makers so that they can persuade government policy makers through their established networks and influence.
In 2001, former chancellor and secretary of state for health in the UK Kenneth Clarke went to Vietnam on behalf of BAT to seek approval to expand production in the country, whereas in Laos a former policymaker was engaged by the industry as a legal consultant recently to lobby policy makers on tobacco control regulations.
Sok Siphanna who was the former Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia spoke favorably of BAT tobacco farming at Kompong Cham province. In Indonesia the ex-Coordinating Minister of Economics and Industry was made a Sampoerna Foundation board member in 2005.
Tan Sri Abu Talib bin Othman became the chairman of British American Tobacco Malaysia Berhad in 1994, a year after his services as Malaysia’s attorney general (1980-1993). Ironically, despite his position in BATM, he is a director of Gleneagles Hospital (KL) Sdn Bhd, Oncology Centre (KL) Sdn Bhd and chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.
In the Philippines, former Congressman Salacnib Baterina has been a counsel for PTI since 2007. Another prominent figure, Antonio Abaya, a retired army general, has been the president of Fortune Tobacco, for more than 20 years. Lucio Tan, a prominent businessman owning an estimated 300 companies is the owner of Fortune Tobacco. Lucio Tan is believed to have a close relationship with retired members of the judiciary, some of whom are rumoured to be retained as consultants in some of his businesses. These rumors became more pronounced when Tan was acquitted in a tobacco tax evasion case. In the meantime, JTI has hired a prominent law firm – a leading lobby group of government agents. Senate and Congress staff in the Philippines have noticed the frequent visits of lawyers from this firm in the Senate and Congress Offices in relation to the pending GHW bill. An Associate of the firm that has very recently left the firm went on to become “special consultant” to two Senators for opposing the GHW.
Thailand is not spared from this strategy either because it is known that the Thai Tobacco Monopoly Board consists of former high-ranking government officials including those from the military.