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Glencore ordered to pay $314 million by UK court for Africa bribes

The UK subsidiary of Swiss mining giant Glencore was ordered to pay £281 million ($314 million) in the United Kingdom on Thursday for bribes in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and South Sudan.

Glencore Energy (UK) pleaded guilty in June to five counts of bribery and two counts of failure to prevent bribery under the UK Bribery Act 2010.

Thursday’s sentencing is the largest corporate penalty ever imposed by a UK court.

Glencore employees flew $800,000 in cash to South Sudan in a private jet shortly after its independence in August 2011. The cash was later given to agents and used to bribe public officials, the UK Serious Fraud Office said.

The SFO said within days of the arrival of the cash in the capital city of Juba, Glencore’s “fortunes changed” and it was awarded valuable contracts.

At sentencing in the Southwark Crown Court, the judge said “the facts demonstrate not only significant criminality but sophisticated devices to disguise it . . . sustained over prolonged periods of time.”

SFO director Lisa Osofsky said Thursday the case is “a landmark” in UK anti-bribery enforcement and “the first time since the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 that a corporate has been convicted for the active authorization of bribery, rather than purely a failure to prevent it.”

In the United States, Glencore paid the DOJ $700 million in May this year to resolve widespread FCPA offenses.

As part of the U.S. resolution, a subsidiary of Glencore also agreed to plead guilty and pay $485.6 million to resolve market manipulation investigations by the DOJ and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The company paid $100 million in bribes overall, according to the FBI’s Brian Turner. Corrupt payments went to officials in Africa and in Brazil and Venezuela, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said Glencore’s conduct “involved high-level employees and agents of the company.”

In a statement Thursday, Glencore’s chairman, Kalidas Madhavpeddi, said: “The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore. . . . The company has taken significant action towards implementing a world-class ethics and compliance program built around risk assessment, policies, procedures, standards and guidelines based on international best practice, associated training and awareness initiatives as well as monitoring systems.”

Last year, former Glencore trader Anthony Stimler pleaded guilty to violating the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The DOJ alleged that from 2007 to 2018, Stimler and co-conspirators bribed Nigerian officials to obtain and retain business for Glencore.

They used “inflated and fraudulent invoices to disguise the nature and purpose of bribe payments made to government officials,” the DOJ said in Stimler’s criminal information.

The Office of the  and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service still have ongoing investigations, the company said Thursday.

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