A London judge today told a UK subsidiary of Glencore to pay a total sum of £281m over an international bribery scandal that saw its staff pay almost $29m (£25.6m) in bribes to officials in Africa.
At a sentencing hearing today, Judge Peter Fraser said a “culture” of bribery was “endemic” within Glencore’s West Africa trading desk.
The judge said Glencore abused its dominant market position over an extended five-year period, as he stated the desk’s activities “corrupted local officials” and damaged the “integrity of markets” .
“Bribery is a highly corrosive offence,” the judge said, as he ruled Glencore is highly culpable for the activities of the corrupt traders on its West Africa desk.
The sentence, handed down today at Southwark Crown Court, comes after Glencore Energy UK Ltd pleaded guilty to seven bribery related charges brought forward by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Glencore, the world’s second largest commodities trader, previously set aside $1.5bn to settle charges brought against it by US, Brazilian, and UK authorities.
In May, the multinational paid a combined sum of $1.1bn to settle the US and Brazilian charges, before pleading guilty to the UK charges in June.
The judge fined Glencore £274m reduced down by a third to £183m for the company’s early admission, as he told the company to pay back £93.5m in profits from the corrupt oil deals, and ordered it to pay £4.6m in the SFO’s investigation costs.
In a hearing yesterday, lawyers working for the SFO said Glencore execs used private jets to fly cash bribes to Cameroon and South Sudan, in their efforts to win favourable treatment in oil deals.
Execs on Glencore’s London-based West Africa (WAF) trading desk used a network of middlemen to bribe officials in Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast, in the efforts to get first pick of the most profitable oil shipments.
Glencore employees also withdrew $800,000 in cash from Glencore’s Swiss offices and flew it to South Sudan via private jet to pay a local company with access to the newly-independent country’s president.
This cash – withdrawn on the premise it would be used to pay for cars, office infrastructure, and salaries in South Sudan – was later used to influence political decisions, Alexandra Healy KC told the court.
In Cameroon, Glencore’s traders paid a middleman to carry cash bribes via private jet which were later paid to two officials working in Cameroon’s state-controlled energy producer.
In seeking to win favour in Equatorial Guinea, Glencore traders also paid $1m into a Swiss bank account owned by an agent in the country, who went on to bribe officials at Equatorial Guinea’s state-owned oil company to secure fuel shipments for Glencore’s desk, the court was told.
“Bribery was clearly part of the culture of a number of personnel on the West Africa desk,” Judge Peter Fraser said.
Glencore’s guilty plea, on five counts of bribery and two further counts of failure to prevent bribery, has been taken as a major win by the UK’s SFO.
The prosecution is the SFO’s first ever successful prosecution of the most serious Section 1 bribery offences against a major corporate entity.
SFO investigations into 17 individuals linked to the bribery case are ongoing.
In a statement, Glencore chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi, who attended today’s hearing in-person, said: “The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore.”