A UK subsidiary of Swiss mining and trading group Glencore has been ordered to pay a fine of more than $310 million by a London court for bribing officials across Africa to gain access to oil.
Judge Peter Fraser at Southwark Crown Court said the offenses Glencore Energy UK pleaded guilty to constituted “corporate corruption on a widespread scale, deploying very substantial sums of money in bribes”.
“The corruption is of extended duration, and took place across five separate countries in West Africa, but had its origins in the West Africa oil trading desk of the defendant in London. It was endemic amongst traders on that particular desk,” the judge added.
According to the BBC, the court heard from prosecutors that Glencore Energy UK employees and agents used private jets to transfer cash to pay the bribes.
The investigation, according to Energy Live News, uncovered a trail of text messages, large cash withdrawals and deliberately concealed payments that showed Glencore paid bribes worth $29 million (£25.9m) in total to gain access to oil in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan between 2011 and 2016.
The investigation into the activities of Glencore was launched in 2019 by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The investigation focused solely on the activity of Glencore Energy UK’s West Africa desk, which sourced and traded in crude oil from countries across Africa.
Glencore reportedly used well-connected local agents to funnel bribes into state-owned oil companies and government ministries in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast. The payments were disguised as an unspecified “service fee”, “signing bonus” or “success fee” in financial reports.
In addition, two Glencore executives flew in a private jet in 2011 to Cameroon and South Sudan carrying $800,000 in cash in which they withdrew from the cash desk at the company’s Swiss headquarters and recorded as expenses for “opening [the] office in South Sudan”.
The money paid to agents in the newly-established government in South Sudan was followed by a further $275,000 in cash, according to Energy Live News.
Meanwhile, Glencore executives represented by Clare Montgomery said “they regret the harm caused by these offences and recognise the harm caused, both at national and public levels in the African states concerned, as well as the damage caused to others.”
Founded in 1974, Glencore is one of the largest multinational commodity trading and mining companies in the world. It has subsidiaries in more than 35 countries.