UK court orders Glencore to pay R5.7bn for African oil trading bribes

Light reflects on signage at sunset near the Glencore Plc headquarters office in Baar, Switzerland, on Friday, July 6, 2018. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A BRITISH subsidiary of mining and trading group Glencore was ordered to pay a total penalty of £276.4m ($310.6m) in a London court on Thursday for seven bribery offences in relation to its oil operations in Africa, said Reuters in a report.

Glencore Energy UK was ordered to pay a £182.9m fine by Judge Peter Fraser at Southwark Crown Court, who also approved a £93.5m confiscation order. “This is a significant overall total,” Reuters quoted the judge as saying. “Other companies tempted to engage in similar corruption should be aware that similar sanctions lie ahead.”

Glencore had earlier declared itself guilty of “corporate corruption on a widespread scale, deploying very substantial sums of money in bribes”, he said.

“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.”

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Wednesday during court proceedings that Glencore officials had delivered cash in private jets to agents across Africa as part of bribes totalling more than $28m to secure access to oil cargoes.

In the case summary, prosecutors said: “Corruption was condoned at a very senior level within the company generally” and the west African trading desk specifically.

“Corruption was endemic within the corporation,” Alexandra Healy, a lawyer for the SFO, said in court. “The approving and offering of bribes was an acceptable way of doing business at the company.”

In May, Glencore said it expected to pay around $1.5bn in total to resolve investigations in the US, UK and Brazil, of which $1.06bn was payable to agencies in the US and Brazil. Glencore made a $410m provision for the UK fine in the 2021 accounts of its UK subsidiary. It also faces ongoing investigations in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Speaking today, 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.” Glencore’s Chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi – who attended the two-day sentencing hearing – said in a statement: “The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore.”