U.S. Politicians Want U.K. Tobacco Company Investigated For Bribery In Africa

By Staff Published: February 7, 2016, 12:37 am
Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire URN:25425534 (Press Association via AP Images)

From TheGuardian. Story by Jamie Doward.

One of the U.K.’s largest companies, British American Tobacco is facing demands that it be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice following allegations that it engaged in widespread bribery of politicians and policymakers in Africa.

Several Democratic senators and congressmen have written a letter calling for the department to launch an immediate investigation into the world’s second-largest publicly traded tobacco company, which has its headquarters in London.

The politicians, led by Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Senator Richard Blumenthal, suggest that British American Tobacco’s actions may have violated both anti-bribery and the foreign corrupt practices acts. If proven, the allegations – denied by British American Tobacco – could result in jail terms for the company’s executives.

It is alleged that the documents raise questions as to whether British American Tobacco paid people off to protect its corporate reputation and to cover up scandals, including environmental damage caused by a warehouse fire in Uganda. There are also claims that the company engaged in corporate espionage and the sabotage of competitors in Kenya. “If true, these allegations would demonstrate a deplorable choice by British American Tobacco to balloon its profits through bribery at the expense of the health of millions,” said Doggett. “Any corporation that enjoys the benefits of our stock exchange must comply with our anti-bribery laws.”

 

“With tobacco companies exploiting growth opportunities in Africa, actions like British American Tobacco’s threaten to undermine the WHO’s global tobacco treaty and condemn the entire continent to generations of smoking, cancer and preventable death.”

Smoking-related diseases cause 6 million deaths a year worldwide, making tobacco the largest preventable cause of death, according to health experts. Successfully expanding operations in Africa is crucial to the future fortunes of big tobacco. The number of adult smokers on the continent is projected to increase from 77 million in 2013 to 572 million by the end of the century.

A British American Tobacco spokesman said that the company would comply with any investigation.

“We take the allegations of historic misconduct in East Africa extremely seriously and are working with our external legal counsel to fully investigate all these claims,” a spokesman said.

Read more at TheGuardian.

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