London court orders Glencore UK to pay $310m over bribery charges

The British subsidiary of the mining and trading group is penalised for seven bribery offences in five African countries.

Swiss commodity trading giant Glencore
The headquarters of Swiss commodity trading giant Glencore is seen in Baar, central Switzerland [File: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

A British subsidiary of Swiss mining and trading group Glencore has been ordered to pay a total penalty of 276.4 million pounds ($310.6m) by a London court for seven bribery offences in relation to its oil operations in Africa.

Glencore Energy UK Limited was on Thursday ordered to pay a 182.9 million pounds ($205.5m) fine by Judge Peter Fraser at Southwark Crown Court, who also approved a 93.5 million pounds ($105m) confiscation order.

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The judge said the offences to which Glencore had pleaded guilty represented “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,” he said.

Glencore's chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi and Glencore's general counsel Shaun Teichner leave Southwark Crown Court
Glencore Chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi and general counsel Shaun Teichner leave Southwark Crown Court in London [File: Sam Tobin/Reuters]

On Wednesday, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) told the court that Glencore Energy UK Limited paid – or failed to prevent the payment of – millions of dollars in bribes to officials in the five African countries.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from outside Southwark Crown Court, said the case against the group was launched in 2019 and it admitted the guilt in June this year.

“The bribery was a process that went on for several years in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan,” he said.

“Some of the more lurid details that have been heard over the last couple of days in the court were that Glencore paid middlemen to fly cash around Africa in private jets, taking them from country to country to bribe officials.”

‘Regrets the harm’

Glencore, a Swiss-based multinational, said in May it expected to pay up to $1.5bn in relation to allegations of bribery and market manipulation in the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Clare Montgomery, representing Glencore, said: “The company unreservedly regrets the harm caused by these offences and recognises the harm caused, both at national and public levels in the African states concerned, as well as the damage caused to others.”

Judge Fraser said in his sentencing remarks: “Glencore has engaged in corporate reform and today appears to be a very different corporation than it was at the time of these offences.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies