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UK Serious Fraud Office ends corruption investigation into British American Tobacco

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·2 min read
The SFO investigation was first launched into the FTSE 100 company, its subsidiaries and associated persons in 2017 over allegations of bribes paid in east Africa to undermine anti-smoking policy. Photo: Getty
The SFO investigation was first launched into the FTSE 100 company, its subsidiaries and associated persons in 2017 over allegations of bribes paid in east Africa to undermine anti-smoking policy. Photo: Getty

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has ended its investigation into British American Tobacco (BATS.L) after confirming the results of its review “did not meet the evidential test for prosecution.”

The probe was first launched into the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) company, its subsidiaries and associated persons in 2017 over allegations the Dunhill cigarette maker paid bribes in east Africa to undermine anti-smoking policy.

BAT, which also owns the Lucky Strike brand, said in a brief market update that it was pleased the inquiry has ended and that it remains committed to the highest standards in the conducts of its business.

A whistleblower who worked for BAT for 13 years told the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2015 that the firm “is bribing people, and I’m facilitating it.”

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He shared hundreds of documents with the broadcaster and the authorities to support claims that he had paid bribes because he was told it was “the cost of doing business in Africa.”

At the time, BAT said to the BBC that its accusers left the company in “acrimonious circumstances and have a vendetta against us, clearly demonstrated by the false picture they present of how we do business."

BAT later hired the law firm Linklaters in February 2016 to conduct a “full investigation” into the claims. It later dropped Linklaters and appointed Slaughter and May as sole adviser on the case.

In April, BAT said it was also under investigation in the US for a possible breach of sanctions.

The London-based firm said it was working with the Justice Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces economic sanctions.

The company currently operates in 180 countries around the world, with sales of almost £26bn in the last financial year and profits of £9bn.

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