EXCLUSIVE: ‘Tobacco giant used state to spy’

19 February 2018 - 06:24 By Graeme Hosken
Headquarters of British American Tobacco at Temple Place in central London. File photo.
Headquarters of British American Tobacco at Temple Place in central London. File photo.
Image: Isabel Infantes / AFP

British and EU authorities are investigating top management at the South African and Zimbabwean branches of the world’s largest tobacco producer‚ British American Tobacco‚ for alleged industrial espionage‚ money laundering and bribing government officials.

A whistleblower has described how the criminal activities allegedly went down and involved politicians and state agencies.

Times Select has learnt that the UK Serious Fraud Office together with the EU anti-corruption unit began investigating BAT SA senior management in November last year. The investigation comes from a larger probe by the SFO into BAT‚ launched in August 2017. That investigation was into how BAT conducted its business in East Africa.

The East African probe started after a whistleblower – former BAT employee Paul Hopkins – alerted UK authorities in 2015 to how the company was allegedly bribing government and revenue officials in Kenya‚ Burundi‚ Rwanda and Comoros for inside information on their competitors‚ including distribution routes‚ production and manufacturing strategies‚ and how the multibillion-dollar company was attempting to have tobacco control laws subverted in the countries they operated in for their benefit.

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