BAT faces punitive racketeering charges over Colombian smuggling

Thursday 21 September 2000


Press release 21st September 2000 immediate


BAT faces punitive racketeering charges over Colombian cigarette smuggling


BritishAmerican Tobacco (BAT) is today facing serious racketeering charges over itsinvolvement in cigarette smuggling in Colombia.  BAT faces action by the Departments (States) of Colombia whichallege that it committed violations of racketeering laws:


“…arising from its involvement in organized crime in pursuit of a massive, ongoing smuggling scheme.”


The full text of the filing is available on the ASH web site [1] and alleges involvement in money laundering, and that BAT:


“…committed,and continue to commit, acts that constitute negligence, fraud, unjust enrichment, public nuisance, negligent misrepresentation, and conspiracy to commit such torts.”


The filing was made by New York lawyers Speiser, Krause, Nolan & Granito [2],which represent the Colombian Departments and adds BAT to the case that was already up and running against its rival Philip Morris.  A number of the BAT personnel named in the filing are currently at board level.


Related developments. ASH has released hundreds of BAT confidential documents showing BAT’s involvement in smuggling in Asia, Latin America and Africa and related developments [3]. In June, the House of Commons Health Select Committee made a formal recommendation that the Department of Trade and Industry should undertake an investigation of BAT’s involvement in smuggling.  The response from Secretary of State, Stephen Byers is expected in the next couple of weeks.  The European Union has announced that it will launch a smuggling RICO action shortly, though it is not yet known whether this will include BAT


ASH said the Colombian move was significant and further strengthened the case for a DTI Companies Act investigation of the allegations of fraud and misconduct at BAT.  Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:


“All the evidence we have seen, and there’s lots of it, suggests that BAT treated smuggling as just another distribution channel and arranged their business operations to exploit it to the full.


“While we’re very heartened that the authorities are finally catching up with BAT and its role in smuggling, it is a British company and the it is British government that needs to take hold of the situation.  A DTI investigation into the allegations of fraud and misconduct is clearly now essential and would demonstrate the Government was prepared to tackle rogue corporations, however big and self-important.”


[1]See the full filing at

[2]+1 212-661-0011 (telephone)

[3]Full background on BAT and smuggling: including ASH’s challenging response to Clarke.


Press Contact: Clive Bates 020 7739 5902 (w) 0468 791 237 (m) ISDN is available