BAT at large in Africa: new documents on smuggling
Embargo: 00:01 Monday 31st July 2000
New British American Tobacco internal documents uncovered by ASH and The Guardian newspaper reveal BAT facilitating and controlling widespread cigarette smuggling operations in Africa. This builds on earlier revelations of the company’s activities in Asia and Latin America and follows the European Commission’s decision last week to take legal action against (as yet unnamed) tobacco companies to recover tax losses due to smuggling.
The documents show that BAT acts through intermediaries, in this case SOREPEX a wholesaler and trading company, to ensure that its cigarettes are sold in the illegal markets;
Letter from BAT to SOREPEX, 1989.
…that it invests in illegal markets as normal business channels and finds a way to advertise them in illegal markets
BAT (UK and Export) limited, 1990.
…that it condones concealment of contraband cigarettes;
Meeting of BAT and SOREPEX, 1987.
“For the first time, Bogno will buy 300 cartons: this is the capacity of his truck, taking into account the other merchandise which will ‘hide’ the cigarettes. (translated from French) SOREPEX to BAT
…that it operates through ‘umbrella’ agreements’ – using a small legal market to justify advertising to build up illegal sales
BAT internal memo, 1991
In this case GT (General Trade) is euphemistically referring to smuggled cigarettes, which is why ‘cover’ of a legitimate legal market is needed.
These documents follow the pattern of hundreds released earlier in year and presented to the Health Select Committee inquiry into the tobacco industry. On the strength of this evidence, the Select Committee recommended that the DTI should investigate BAT [see relevant 1] BAT’s Deputy Chairman, Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP, has refused to answer any specific allegations put by ASH  despite issuing blanket denials. In a further development last week, the European Commission announced it was to take legal action against American tobacco companies – see ASH press release , and on 28th July, the Canadian Government relaunched its racketeering action against RJ Reynolds on the US courts.
Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is currently considering whether to act on the recommendation of the Health Select Committee that he should launch a Companies Act investigation into BAT. In his speech to the WTO in Seattle last year Stephen Byers said:
ASH has called on Byers to act on these words . Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:
ASH believes that an international convention, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control  should be used to control tobacco smuggling. Negotiations start in Geneva in October this year. Emma Must, International Campaigner at ASH said:
Yussuf Saloojee of the National Council Against Smoking, based in South Africa said
 Byers’ speech
For the full Guardian Article see Pressure grows for tobacco firm inquiry
For more information, download a pdf version of British American Tobacco and Africa: Smuggling investigation