Several U.S. Senators and Congresspeople have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging the agency to begin an investigation into bribery accusations against British-American Tobacco.
I wrote about some of these accusations a few weeks ago here. However, according to the letter from Congresspeople, the accusations go beyond those exposed in a recent BBC documentary about British-American Tobacco.
From a Guardian article:
The politicians, led by congressman Lloyd Doggett and senator Richard Blumenthal, suggest that BAT’s actions may have violated both the Anti-Bribery and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts (FCPA). If proven, the allegations – denied by BAT – could result in jail terms for the company’s executives.
Some of the allegations about BAT’s activities in parts of Africa first surfaced in a BBC Panorama documentary last year. Since then, US lawmakers say that additional documents have come to light, which they claim suggest alleged bribery may have been more widespread than previously thought.
It is alleged that the documents raise questions as to whether BAT paid people off to protect its corporate reputation and to cover up scandals, including environmental damage caused by a warehouse fire in Uganda. There are also claims that the company engaged in corporate espionage and the sabotage of competitors in Kenya. “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,” said Doggett. “Any corporation that enjoys the benefits of our stock exchange must comply with our anti-bribery laws.”
According to a BBC documentary on British-American Tobacco, the company was bribing officials in African nations to weaken laws regarding tobacco marketing and packaging. Tobacco companies have been pulling out all the stops, including intimidation, threats of lawsuits and getting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pressure countries to combat any kind of anti-smoking measures in small nations, which simply don’t have the money or resources to fend off these powerful companies.
The nations involved in the BBC documentary include Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoros Islands.
Though British-American Tobacco is based in the UK, the company is the third-largest tobacco comglomerate in the U.S., behind Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. BAT brands include Pall Mall, Lucky Strike, Kool, Kent and Benson & Hedges. British American Tobacco is already under investigation in the UK and has publicly stated that whatever bribery schemes took place were the result of a “rogue employee.”