British American Tobacco Africa Scandal: Bribery Act Investigation Must Start Now

Monday 30 November 2015

Tonight’s Panorama programme[1] reveals detailed evidence of employees of the British American Tobacco Group making payments in Africa to politicians and civil servants in countries across east Africa.

Action on Smoking and Health is calling for an urgent police inquiry into whether criminal offences have been committed under the Bribery Act 2010.[2]

Panorama’s evidence indicates that BAT Group money has been used to:

• Corrupt national parliaments
• get information on – and make changes to – tobacco control legislation
• get market information and intelligence to undermine competitors

Section 6 of the Bribery Act 2010 makes it a crime for a person to bribe foreign officials with the intention of securing a business advantage. Section 7 makes it an offence for a commercial organisation to fail to prevent persons associated with it from engaging in bribery, unless the organisation can show that it had proper procedures in place to prevent bribery.

BAT is the biggest tobacco company in Africa, with the largest market share in two thirds of African countries.[3] As smoking rates fall across the developed world, developing countries are now the tobacco industry’s targets for future growth. Around a half of all lifetime smokers will die from smoking-related disease.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“Panorama’s shocking evidence must be investigated without delay. If true, it is hard to imagine any more disgusting act for a British company than to pay decision makers in Africa to prevent legislation being passed to protect children and young people from a future of addiction, disease and premature death caused by smoking. We will be writing to the Government to demand that a criminal investigation under the Bribery Act is launched at once.”

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[2] Bribery Act 2010

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)