Glencore UK subsidiary pleads guilty to bribery in Africa

Anglo-Swiss commodities giant admits to paying more than $28m in bribes to firms in five African countries between 2011-16.

The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland
The Swiss-based multinational will be sentenced at a two-day hearing in London beginning on November 2 [File: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters]

A British subsidiary of Anglo-Swiss commodities giant Glencore has formally pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in connection with oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.

At a hearing on Tuesday in London’s Southwark Crown Court, Glencore Energy admitted to paying more than $28m in bribes to secure preferential access to oil – including increased cargoes and preferable dates of delivery – and generate illicit profit between 2011 and 2016.

Among those to receive funds from the company were Cameroon’s Societe Nationale des Hydrocarbures and Societe Nationale de Raffinage, as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The Swiss-based multinational will get a verdict at a two-day hearing beginning on November 2, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.

It has already said it expects to pay up to $1.5bn to settle allegations of bribery and market manipulation and three subsidiaries in the United States, Brazil and UK have now pleaded guilty to criminal offences.

US authorities will see the bulk of those funds after Glencore agreed to a $1.1bn US settlement last month to resolve a decade-long scheme to bribe foreign officials across seven countries – and separate charges alleging a trading division manipulated fuel oil prices at US shipping ports.

Calls for senior executives to be prosecuted

But the guilty plea by a corporate heavyweight in London is a much-needed boost for the SFO, which has faced sharp criticism and awaits the outcome of a “forensic” government-ordered review after senior judges overturned two convictions in its Unaoil bribery investigation because of disclosure failings.

“The SFO’s success with Glencore will certainly not protect it from any flak that comes its way …” Syed Rahman, a partner at law firm Rahman Ravelli, told the Reuters news agency. “But the result it has in this case is an indicator of what the agency is capable of when it does not make mistakes.”

Helen Taylor, a legal researcher at pressure group Spotlight on Corruption, urged the SFO to now investigate and prosecute senior executives who had condoned the wrongdoing.

The SFO said only that its Glencore investigation was continuing.

Glencore is also paying $29.6m directly to state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras in compensation for defrauding the company and roughly $10m to authorities in civil penalties, prosecutors have said.

The company remains the subject of investigations in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Source: News Agencies