Swiss commodities giant Glencore pleads guilty to bribery charges in Africa

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Wednesday, 22 June 2022 13:17

This Feb. 7, 2012 file photo shows the headquarters of Glencore in Baar, Switzerland. (AP Photo/ Keystone/ Sigi Tischler, File)

The UK subsidiary of Swiss mining and trading Glencore pled guilty to multiple bribery counts for its dealings in four African countries on 21 June. This guilty plea is the second for the company in just two months.

In a Southwark Crown Court hearing in London, Glencore pled guilty to seven counts of bribery regarding oil operations in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and South Sudan.

The company, which will find out its punishment on 2 and 3 November, according to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), has admitted to paying more than $28m from 2011-2016 to gain preferential access to oil.

The bribery charges state that the firm’s aim was for officials to “perform their functions improperly, or reward them for doing so, by unduly favouring Glencore Energy UK Limited in the allocation of crude oil cargoes, the dates crude oil would be lifted and the grades of crude oil allocated”.

The SFO said: “Glencore Energy (UK) Ltd has today been convicted of all charges of bribery brought against it by the Serious Fraud Office. At Southward Crown Court, the company admitted to multiple counts of paying bribes to secure access to oil and generate illicit profit.”

Looking for a pattern

Glencore and its global subsidiaries are facing many legal investigations. The company says it expects to pay as much as $1.5bn in settlements in cases related to bribery and corruption. Its subsidiaries in Brazil, the UK and the US have pled guilty to criminal charges.

Last month, Glencore agreed to a $1.1bn settlement in the US for the bribing of officials in seven countries (including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Venezuela) over the course of a decade. A second criminal case against in the US was for an eight-year scheme manipulating US oil-price benchmarks. The firm is also currently under investigation in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

In addition, Glencore is set to pay a $40m settlement in Brazil, with $30m going to the state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobas as compensation for defrauding it and $10m going to the national authorities as civil penalties.

Helen Taylor, a legal researcher for pressure group Spotlight on Corruption, said the latest verdict is important: “Glencore’s guilty plea today should send a strong signal that companies will be held to account for the complicity of senior executives in corporate corruption.”

The Glencore trial in the UK marks the SFO’s third corporate conviction under the 2010 Bribery Act, with Glencore the first company to admit to bribing officials. Glencore has said that it has made an effort to strengthen its compliance procedures and that it is “not the company it was.”

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