BAT To Face An Enquiry

Posted 12th February 2016 by Dave Cross
Last year we covered the story of how journalists working for the Panorama exposed some illicit activities by British American Tobacco employees. The exposé illustrated how it would be possible to see how the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) was skewed to favour tobacco companies at the expense of independent vape businesses.

British American Tobacco (BAT) was “accused of bribery, commercial malpractice and illegal influence.” Journalists uncovered documents linking their employees to illegal payments in return for the ability to manipulate proposed legislation. The corruption led all the way up to The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

“I was a commercial hitman,” said the BAT whistle-blower “My job was to ensure the competition didn’t get a breathing space.” The company made an attempt to distance itself from what they tried to portray as a solitary bad egg employee – but unfortunately for them there was audio-visual evidence concreting the fact that his behavior was systemic and authorised through the channels of administration.

The FCTC worked hand-in-hand with the European Commission through the development of the TPD. It was a process dogged with claims of undue influence being exerted by tobacco companies time and time again - not to mention the targeted burglaries of the offices belonging to people working on tobacco control.

Although there is nothing to directly link the events in Brussels with tobacco companies, US congressmen have demanded that their justice department carries out an investigation into the claims of “widespread bribery of politicians and policymakers” in Africa.

News of the allegations of corporate espionage, cover-up scandals and even setting fire to a warehouse in Uganda (made in the documentary) has reached the desks of congressman Lloyd Doggett and senator Richard Blumenthal. As mentioned by Panorama, such corrupt practices are liable to prosecution in the United States in the same way that members of FIFA have been recently indicted.

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BAT denies all of the allegations but the American politicians believe their actions fall under the Anti-Bribery and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts and are demanding an enquiry is set up to find out. Should it be proved there is a case to answer then the executives would face potential jail terms. The Guardian quotes Lloyd Doggett as saying: “If true, these allegations would demonstrate a deplorable choice by BAT to balloon its profits through bribery at the expense of the health of millions. Any corporation that enjoys the benefits of our stock exchange must comply with our anti-bribery laws.”

Blumenthal continues: “The tobacco industry has a long history of placing profits above public health and these allegations raise clear questions about whether BAT violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - a question the DoJ must answer.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker