A London judge has rejected Nigeria’s call for a share of any money paid out by Glencore to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), after the commodity trader pleaded guilty on seven counts of bribery last May.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria urged the court to issue a compensation order ensuring a share of any money paid out to the SFO goes to Nigeria.
Acting on behalf of Nigeria, Lord Garnier KC said: “Bribery is not a victimless crime… The fine will go to the UK and it won’t touch the people of Nigeria who are the victims.”
Lord Garnier KC said that while Glencore’s crime is an “overseas crime with overseas effects,” the British government is set to benefit from any payout made by the commodities company.
Nigeria’s lawyers urged the court to award a sum that is commensurate with either the bribes paid out by Glencore, or the profits the downstream oil trader made through its Nigerian commodities deals.
Lord Garnier pointed to figures from the US Department of Justice, showing Glencore paid bribes of $52m to Nigerian government officials, through which it earned profits of $124m.
However, Southwark Crown Court judge Justice Peter Fraser ruled Nigeria has “no standing” as a third-party to claim a share of any potential fines, as he instead said the SFO has discretion on paying out any money to Nigeria.
Under British law, third parties are not entitled to apply for compensation in criminal proceedings.
The hearing comes after Glencore plead guilty on five counts of bribery and two counts of failure to prevent bribery, after being charged on all seven counts by the SFO.
Glencore previously set aside $1.5bn to settle the corruption cases, of which it agreed to pay $1.06bn to US authorities and a further $39.6m to Brazilian authorities.
Dr Helen Taylor, legal researcher at Spotlight on Corruption, said: “The court’s easy dismissal of Nigeria’s claim for victim status is a powerful illustration of why the current compensation framework simply isn’t fit for purpose.”
“Overseas victims of corruption are completely reliant on prosecutors to be heard and compensated in UK courts,” Taylor said.
Commenting on the ruling, Nigeria’s counsel, RPC solicitor Sam Tate, called for “urgent” reform of the “laws and guidelines that apply to compensating victims of foreign bribery”.
“Countries like Nigeria must be heard in court and must stand a real opportunity of compensation in cases where fines that go to either the UK or US authorities regularly run into hundreds of millions,” Tate said.
Glencore declined to comment.