A middleman paid by Glencore flew cash in private jets across Africa to bribe officials, a London court was told on Wednesday.
A UK subsidiary of the commodity trader and mining group will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court this week after pleading guilty in June to seven counts of bribery spanning countries from Nigeria to Cameroon following a Serious Fraud Office probe.
Glencore has set aside $1.5bn to settle a series of global probes, including about $1.1bn for US authorities. Its UK fine will be determined on Thursday.
The SFO’s investigation focused on Glencore’s London office and its west Africa desk, which sourced oil across the continent.
On Wednesday, a barrister representing the SFO said Glencore had paid a Nigerian middleman more than €4mn disguised as service fees.
Money was transported, often by private jet, from Nigeria to Cameroon to a Glencore oil trader who used it to pay bribes, according to the SFO, with $13.7mn paid to officials in Cameroon’s national oil and gas company and the country’s national refinery in the three years to March 1 2015.
The court heard Glencore had used a Swiss “cash desk” to dispense money to be used for bribery. The trader on the west Africa desk withdrew €6.3mn in cash from this desk through a series of transactions listed as “office expenses”.
Glencore’s non-executive chair Kalidas Madhavpeddi, who replaced Tony Hayward in a leadership overhaul last year, and general counsel Shaun Teichner both attended court on Wednesday.
Clare Montgomery KC, representing Glencore, said the company’s conduct was “inexcusable” and “had no place in Glencore”, but that “these practices do not exist in any form in any of the Glencore companies” today.
The SFO in May charged Glencore Energy UK with profit-driven corruption in connection with its oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.
The anti-graft agency’s probe revealed the company had paid more than $28mn to agents and intermediaries to secure preferential access to oil, increased cargoes, valuable grades of oil and preferable delivery dates.
On Wednesday, the agency set out a system in which Glencore traders disguised payments to give the appearance that they were for “legitimate services”.
The court heard that the SFO had received evidence from Anthony Stimler, a UK citizen who worked on the company’s west Africa desk until 2019 and pleaded guilty to charges in the US last year. He confirmed that payments to the Nigerian agent were a “sham” to disguise their true purpose.
Glencore is the first company to be the subject of a criminal prosecution by the UK Serious Fraud Office for paying bribes and has pleaded guilty to five such offences.
Glencore has pleaded guilty to two separate US criminal cases and agreed to pay about $1.1bn in criminal fines and forfeiture. Prosecutors in the US and UK agreed to focus on different time periods of offending in order to avoid double jeopardy.
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