Glencore ordered to pay £280m over African bribes

By Kanika Saigal

Posted on Thursday, 3 November 2022 18:11, updated on Thursday, 2 March 2023 16:35
Glencore's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, in 2020. © Fabrice COFFRINI/AFP

International commodity trading and mining company Glencore Energy has been ordered to pay £280m ($313m) in fines and confiscations orders today, after pleading guilty to seven counts of bribery relating to its oil operations in Africa.

The confiscation order – when a convicted defendant is ordered to pay back criminally obtained assets – was £93.48m ($104m) and the fine came to £182.94m.  The company was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4.55m.

The sentencing follows discoveries made on Wednesday during Glencore’s trial at Southwark Crown Court, London.

Despite the verdict, the payout pales in comparison to Glencore’s profit for 2021 of $21.3bn – 83% higher than that in 2020 – due to

the rise in oil and gas costs globally.  After the record profits were announced, the energy company paid a $4bn dividend to shareholders.

The facts demonstrate not only sustained criminality but sophisticated devices to disguise it.”

A Nigerian effort to claim compensation from Glencore over bribes paid to officials at Nigeria’s state oil company was denied at the same London court last week.

Bribery ‘part of the culture’

Passing sentence at the end of a two-day hearing, Justice Peter Fraser said: “Bribery was clearly part of the culture for some personnel on the West Africa desk.”

In addition, he said: “the facts demonstrate not only sustained criminality but sophisticated devices to disguise it, including drawing significant cash sums for other stated purposes that would be legitimate, such as the expenses of opening a new office, which was in reality used for corrupt purposes.”

For some of the charges, he said, “isolated acts of bribery occurred on single occasions” but that “the same techniques were used month after month, for the whole period covered by the relevant count in the indictment”.

$28m in bribes paid

During the trial, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) showed that Glencore paid more than $28m – largely in cash – in bribes in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and South Sudan. The payments are said to have been made between 2011 and 2016 to secure lucrative contracts as well as preferential access to oil, increased cargoes, valuable grades of oil and better delivery dates.

The sentencing comes just five months after Glencore Energy was ordered to pay $1.5bn to settle bribery and market manipulation charges in the US, UK and Brazil relating to its mining operations in DRC.

By pleading guilty, Glencore avoided a lengthy trial, which may have exposed individuals involved in the bribery case. Except for one Glencore trader – Anthony Stimler, who confessed last year to distributing bribes on the company’s behalf – other Glencore officials or individuals who benefitted from the bribes are not named in the court records.

“The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore,” Kalidas Madhavpeddi, Glencore’s chair, said in a statement. Glencore is “committed to operating a company that creates value for all stakeholders by operating transparently under a well-defined set of values, with openness and integrity at the forefront.”

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