Staff of the British unit of commodity trader Glencore as well as middlemen conveyed cash by way of private jets to pay bribes to officials based in West Africa, prosecutors said at a London court on Wednesday.
Glencore, headquartered in Switzerland, owned up to seven counts of bribery in markets comprising Cameroon and Nigeria after an investigation by Serious Fraud Office (SFO), a government department, which investigates serious or complex fraud, bribery and graft.
Late May, PREMIUM TIMES reported the commodity and mining giant pleaded guilty and accepted to pay more than $1.1 billion in fines for its part in a graft scheme involving bribery of Nigeria state-owned oil firm NNPC Limited.
The UK subsidiary, Glencore Energy UK Limited, paid – or did not prevent the payment – of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in five countries on the continent, SFO told Southwark Crown Court.
According to prosecutors, Glencore committed over $28 million to bribing in a bid to gain access to oil cargoes. On Thursday, a judge in London will decide the final fine.
Graft was permitted at a pretty high level within the company generally and specifically at the West African trading desk, prosecutors said. An employee of SFO said in October that 11 former staff were facing investigation for criminal wrongdoing.
Glencore said in May it would pay a sum in the region of $1.5 billion to sort out investigations in Brazil, the US and UK. The firm is also embroiled in current investigations in the Netherlands and Switzerland, having made an allowance for $410 million in the 2021 accounts of its UK operation.
Prosecutor Alexander Healey said corruption was commonplace within the company, also noting that the UK subsidiary used an oil trader on the West Africa desk at its London office as a conduit for delivering bribes to officials at Cameroon’s national oil and gas firm to get “favourable treatment” for the sale of crude.
“The approving and offering of bribes was an acceptable way of doing business at the company.”
She further said a company’s middlemen in Nigeria, where the money was withdrawn and moved to Cameroun usually by private, helped an unidentified Glencore employee to do so.
Glencore earned profits in the neighbourhood of $128 million from the bribery.
Apart from confiscation orders, general magnitude of the sanction will most possibly be estimated with a multiplier of between 250 per cent and 400 per cent before any other mitigation is factored in.
Glencore “unreservedly regrets the harm caused by these offences and recognises the harm caused, both at national and public levels in the African states concerned, as well as the damage caused to others,” said the company’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery.
Prosecutors revealed traders on Glencore’s crude oil desk in London hid payments “to give the illusion that these payments were for legitimate services.”
Officials to whom Glencore paid bribes are based in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun and the Democratic Republic of Congo.