August 2—BAT plc, the British tobacco multinational and maker of Sportsman cigarettes, has been fighting off bribery allegations in East Africa for years. But now, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has officially opened investigations into the firm with the help of Paul Hopkins, a whistle-blower.
On Tuesday, the SFO said, ‘The SFO confirms it is investigating suspicions of corruption in the conduct of business by BAT plc, its subsidiaries and associated persons’.
In response, BAT said in a statement, ‘We have been co-operating with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and British American Tobacco (BAT) has been informed that the SFO has now opened a formal investigation. BAT intends to co-operate with that investigation’.
Hopkins’ name came into the spotlight in 2015 after providing the BBC Panorama programme investigative team with a host of documentary evidence and anecdotes that showed BAT was involved in market manipulation and bribing politicians to maintain its regional dominance.
For 13 years, Hopkins was a BAT employee and he claims his bosses told him the payment of bribes, was one of costs of doing business in East Africa.
According to UK media, in one instance, Hopkins handed over money to officials in the Kenya Revenue Authority to access information that BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind.
Hopkins further claimed that BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations.