British American Tobacco, one of Britain’s biggest companies, has been accused of bribing senior politicians and civil servants in a bid to sabotage anti-smoking laws.
The allegations by whistleblowers from the company, and supported by court documents, relate to the company’s operations in several African countries.
Paul Hopkins, who served in the Irish Special Forces before working for BAT, claims he broke the law for the tobacco firm. “I was a commercial hitman,” he said in an interview broadcast on BBC One’s Panorama.
Commenting on the practice of bribery, Mr Hopkins, who worked for BAT in Kenya for 13 years, said: “It was explained to me in Africa that’s the cost of doing business.”
Several individuals involved with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) were allegedly targeted.
Under the UK Bribery Act, British companies can be prosecuted for bribery which takes place overseas. And anti-smoking campaigners are demanding the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launch a criminal investigation into BAT.
“Given how Big Tobacco operates, these latest revelations are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg!
That’s why there must be a full and public inquiry to expose the extent and nature of BAT’s illegal acts. No company should be allowed to put its profits before the health and economic well-being of sovereign nation states.”
Prof Anna Gilmore, University of Bath TCRG
“Panorama’s shocking evidence must be investigated without delay. If true, it is hard to imagine any more disgusting act for a British company than to pay decision makers in Africa to prevent legislation being passed to protect children and young people from a future of addiction, disease and premature death caused by smoking.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health
British American Tobacco accused of bribing senior politicians in order to sabotage anti-smoking laws | The Independent