UK's SFO launches formal investigation into BAT's Africa corruption allegation

news
01 August 2017

The UK's Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal investigation into British American Tobacco over corruption allegations in Africa.

The SFO said, it was ''investigating suspicions of corruption in the conduct of business by BAT, its subsidiaries and associated persons''.

Responding to the news of the launch of the SFO investigation, BAT said in a statement: "As previously announced, we are investigating, through external legal advisers, allegations of misconduct.

"We have been co-operating with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and British American Tobacco (BAT) has been informed that the SFO has now opened a formal investigation. BAT intends to co-operate with that investigation."

The company did not confirm whether the investigation concerned allegations made by BAT whistleblower Paul Hopkins, who worked for the firm in Kenya for 13 years and claimed that he had paid bribes on the company's behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority. The bribes were paid to access information that BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind.

Hopkins further claimed that BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations.

In February 2016, BAT hired law firm Linklaters to conduct a ''full investigation'' into Hopkins' claims, but later dropped it and appointed Slaughter and May as sole adviser on the case.

According to commentators, the SFO investigation was another blow to the company, after the US health watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration, announced tighter regulations on the tobacco industry.

The allegations were first made in a BBC Panorama programme in 2015.

The SFO has asked those with information relevant to this investigation, to contact it through its secure and confidential reporting channel.

Prime minister Theresa May had suggested during this year's election campaign that the SFO should closed down. The SFO this year fined engine maker Rolls-Royce 500 million for bribery and Tesco 130 million for mis-stating its accounts.





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