People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- December 21, 2015
FCA members in Africa and Asia say allegations of corruption by British American Tobacco in East Africa should prompt investigations into the company’s conduct elsewhere.
The BBC-TV programme Panorama reported on 30 Nov. that BAT illegally bribed politicians and civil servants in East Africa to undermine anti-smoking legislation.
A whistle-blower, former BAT employee Paul Hopkins, revealed the bribes by sharing hundreds of secret documents.
In an article on bbc.com, Hopkins is quoted as saying “BAT is bribing people, and I'm facilitating it.”
Evidence of bribery
Hopkins also revealed emails showing BAT illegally paid countries’ delegates to sessions of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The articles states that: an official from Burundi, Godefroid Kamwenubusa, and a representative from the Comoros Islands, Chaibou Bedja Abdou, were both paid US$3,000 (£2,000). A former representative from Rwanda, Bonaventure Nzeyimana, was paid $20,000. All three men deny taking bribes from BAT.
The documents provided by Hopkins showed that BAT paid bribes to undermine anti-smoking legislation and to receive a draft copy of Burundi’s Tobacco Control Bill.
The Deputy Director of an FCA member organisation said he was not surprised at the allegations.
“The BBC findings are happening not only in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, they are happening in virtually all the nations in Africa where BAT is operating, capitalising on weak institutions of government that it readily throws cash into to compromise its officials,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, in an online article.
“The aim of this, has been, and will always be to weaken or outrightly stop legislations that save lives. We believe BAT works openly and behind the scenes to thwart the FCTC,” he added.
British companies can be prosecuted for bribery anywhere in the world if they fail to take steps to prevent it, under the UK Bribery Act.
According to bribery expert Jeremy Carver of Transparency International UK, the revelations will set inquires in motion about BAT’s operations globally, which glbally will be scrutinised by prosecutors in the UK, the USA and everywhere they are operating.
Corruption In Asia
BAT sells cigarettes in practically every country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) region and has dominant cigarette market share in Malaysia (62 percent), where it also has a manufacturing facility, and significant market share in Cambodia (40 percent) and Vietnam (26 percent).
BAT’s activities in countries where it operates must be investigated by local anti-corruption authorities, said Ms Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
“Tobacco companies apply pressure on governments and undermine any effort to strengthen tobacco control,” she said adding, “all ASEAN countries are equipped with anti-corruption laws, which can be applied for any corrupt practices such as bribery of public officials.”
Join the global outcry and take action
- Corporate Accountability International has set up an online petition demanding that BAT pay for sabotaging lifesaving laws. Sign the petition
- Read the full Panorama story and watch some footage from the program