UK orders Glencore to pay millions over African oil bribes

Nov 3, 2022, 1:09 PM | Updated: 1:55 pm

LONDON (AP) — A British court on Thursday ordered commodities company Glencore to pay more than 280 million pounds ($313 million) for using bribes to bolster its oil profits in five African countries.

The order comes months after the Anglo-Swiss company announced it had reached deals with authorities in the U.S., Britain and Brazil to resolve corruption allegations.

Glencore pleaded guilty in June to seven counts of bribery after an investigation launched by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office in 2019 found it paid bribes worth a combined $29 million to gain access to oil in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.

The fraud office said the penalty is the largest for one of its cases and is the first time a company was convicted for authorizing bribery instead of just failing to prevent it under a 2010 law.

“The facts demonstrate not only significant criminality but sophisticated devices to disguise it,” Judge Peter Fraser of the Southwark Crown Court said in sentencing Glencore, adding that the bribery was “endemic” among traders and took place over an extended period. “Other companies tempted to engage in similar corruption should be aware that similar sanctions lie ahead.”

Glencore, which is headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, said it cooperated with the British investigation and “engaged in an extensive program of corporate reform.”

“The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore,” Chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi said in a statement. Glencore “is committed to operating a company that creates value for all stakeholders by operating transparently under a well-defined set of values, with openness and integrity at the forefront.”

The British investigation found that the company would fly large amounts of cash by private plane to bribe officials in oil and gas companies and government ministries in African countries. Cash withdrawals were masked in financial reports as charges like service fees, signing bonuses and office expenses.

For example, two Glencore executives took a private jet in August 2011 to deliver $800,000 in cash to a local agent to funnel to officials in South Sudan’s new government. An additional $275,000 followed.

Another trader took out millions of dollars from the company’s Swiss cash desk between 2012 and 2015, with the money brought on private jets to Cameroon to bribe officials in national oil and gas companies.

Following similar allegations in other countries, Glencore agreed to pay penalties totaling up to $1.5 billion to resolve all the investigations, included bribery accusations in the United States and Brazil as well as a market manipulation case in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice said its case against the company related to “a decade-long scheme by Glencore and its subsidiaries to make and conceal corrupt payments and bribes” to foreign officials in Africa and Latin America to secure oil contracts, avoid government audits and make lawsuits disappear.

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UK orders Glencore to pay millions over African oil bribes