Africa: Activists claim corruption by British American Tobacco officials may have put lives at risk; company responds

A recent article published by Corporate Accountability International claims that British American Tobacco's corrupt practices, including a 15 year delay in implementing the tobacco control law in Kenya may have put lives at risk. We invited the company to respond and the response is provided below.

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23 May 2016

Advocacy groups claim British American Tobacco's corrupt practices has compromised lives

Author: Corporate Accountability International (USA)

"As British American Tobacco celebrates another year of deadly profits, groups around globe call for government action on bribery, espionage"

...[As] British American Tobacco (BAT) held its annual general meeting (AGM), groups on three continents campaigned to demand it be held accountable for recent allegations of bribery and espionage across Africa...“While BAT’s executives and shareholders toasted to deadly profits and generations of addiction, people around the world gathered to demand the corporation is held accountable for its abuses,” said Cloe Franko, Senior Organizer at Corporate Accountability International. “With BAT already under investigation in Kenya for bribery and authorities in the U.K and U.S. considering investigations, shareholders should be nervous about their investment.”...

“In Kenya, likely because of BAT, it took us 15 years to pass and implement our tobacco control law—think of the lives that have been taken in that time!” said Samuel Ochieng, Director of Consumer Information Network in Kenya. “Now that we have irrefutable evidence of bribery,” he added, “we will be proud when Kenya is the first country to investigate BAT and hold it accountable.”..Among the revelations was at least one bribe to a government representative from Burundi to represent BAT’s interests at a World Health Organization global tobacco treaty meeting. There were multiple bribes to politicians and policymakers to gain access to and obstruct tobacco control policymaking. The bribes ranged from $3,000 to $20,000 and some were even sanctioned by a regional executive.

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Company response
23 May 2016

British American Tobacco's response

Author: British American Tobacco

"British American Tobacco response re how alleged corruption may have risked lives in Africa"

...Towards the end of 2015 a number of allegations were made regarding historic misconduct in Africa. We are a company that prides itself on its culture and governance and will not tolerate corruption in our business anywhere in the world.

 In the light of this, we are, not surprisingly, taking these allegations extremely seriously. In this context the Board has appointed an external law firm to conduct a full investigation and appointed a sub committee to oversee this investigation. We have also informed the UK’s Serious Fraud Office of our approach and are continuing to liaise with them. I hope you will appreciate that while this investigation is ongoing it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to prejudge its outcome or answer questions about what may, or may not, have occurred.

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