Tobacco giant faces more allegations of illegal payments
Paul Hopkins, the former employee of British American Tobacco Plc (LON:BAT), who last month alleged that the company had bribed politicians and civil servants in countries in East Africa, has claimed that he raised his corruption concerns internally twice, but was ignored on both occasions.
In a BBC documentary on November 30, Hopkins, a former Irish special forces soldier who worked at BAT for 13 years, showed documents alleging that the tobacco giant had arranged bribes totalling $26,000 for three public officials in Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoros Islands in 2012. BAT promptly dismissed the accusations, saying that it does not tolerate corruption in its business.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Hopkins added to the accusations, saying that he had twice raised his corruption concerns to an internal team while still a BAT employee, but he was ignored. According to the report, after the second attempt Hopkins raised an official grievance with BAT and was granted a meeting with the head of human resources in Africa and the Middle East, which took place last year.
“A recording of that meeting made by Hopkins appears to show him being cut off as he attempts to explain the alleged activities taking place in parts of east Africa,” The Sunday Times said.
The newspaper also reported that Hopkins had revealed further documents that appear to show payments of more than $100,000 (£65,000) to a rival tobacco executive in Uganda, in return for commercially sensitive information.
“All companies in the BAT group are required to operate in line with the group’s standards of business conduct, and are obliged to ensure all 57,000 employees around the world understand and abide by them,” BAT said in response to the latest claims, as quoted by The Sunday Times. The company also reiterated its stance that “We do not tolerate corruption in our business anywhere in the world.”
In today’s trading, BAT shares were up 0.6 percent at 3,619.00p, as of 14:14 GMT. The stock has risen 3.4 percent since the start of the year and the company’s market capitalisation currently stands at £67.5 billion.
The 19 analysts offering 12-month price targets for BAT have a median target of 4,050p, with a high estimate of 4,410p and a low estimate of 3,020p. As of December 12, 2015, the consensus forecast amongst 23 polled investment analysts covering BAT had it that the company will outperform the market. The same consensus estimate has been maintained since April 30, 2015, when the sentiment of investment analysts improved from “hold”.