British American Tobacco (BAT) has been accused of paying bribes to senior political figures and World Health Organization (WHO) officials in East Africa in order influence the outcome of anti-smoking laws in the region, the BBC reported.
The British company is said to have paid politicians in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Comoros Islands to support its positions during the negotiations and conventions concerting their products.
Paul Hopkins, a former BAT worker-turned-whistleblower who worked in Kenya for over 13 years, told the BBC that he was told paying bribes was the cost of doing business in Africa.
“BAT is bribing people, and I’m facilitating it,” he said. “The reality is, if … they have to break the rules, they will break the rules.”
Hopkins, who said he was “a commercial hitman” for the London-based company, claimed to have supporting court documents relating to the company’s operations in several African countries.
According to the Independent, he also has recorded conversations with his former boss, Gary Fagan, BAT’s director for East and Central Africa, and a company lawyer Naushad Ramoly, discussing the bribes.
Some of the politicians implicated in the BAT bribery scandal include Moses Watangula, Kenya’s former Minister of Trade, Dr Kasirivu Atwooki, a Ugandan MP who sat on a committee writing a report on a rival company and David Bahati, a Ugandan MP who proposed an anti-tobacco bill.
Two World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) representatives, Godefroid Kamwenubusa, from Burundi, and Chaibou Bedja Abdou, from the Comoros Islands, were also mentioned.
Another whistleblower, Solomon Muyita, a former lobbyist in Uganda, claims he was told to pay off dozens of people, and is suing BAT for wrongful dismissal.
BAT has categorically denied this allegations and said this was not the way it conducted business in Africa.
“The truth is that we do not and will not tolerate corruption, no matter where it takes place,” BAT told the BBC.