Employees and agents of Glencore, a British subsidiary of mining and trading group, delivered cash in private jets to oil officials in West Africa including Nigeria, according to UK prosecutors.
UK’s serious fraud office (SFO) made this known to the Southwark crown court on the first day of a sentencing hearing, according to reports.
The SFO, on Wednesday, said the company paid more than $28 million in bribes to secure access to oil cargoes.
It marks the first time a corporate has been convicted for paying bribes, according to the SFO.
Detailing the company’s schemes, it said traders on Glencore’s crude oil desk in London disguised payments “to give the illusion that these payments were for legitimate services”.
The SFO also explained how the company used a cash desk in its Swiss headquarters and private jets in Africa to courier illicit payments across West Africa to pay state officials bribes.
Using sham payments to an agent, the company paid bribes to officials in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Republic of Congo, it said.
The US agency said Glencore paid more than $4 million to the agent, identified as NG1, that were disguised as service fees.
The agent then “withdrew the money in Nigeria and flew it — often by private jet — to Cameroon where it was made available to a Glencore oil trader who used it to pay bribes”.
Alexandra Healey, a lawyer representing the SFO, said Glencore had pleaded guilty to five counts of bribery in relation to a total of $26.9 million of payments, which were paid “primarily to officials in state-owned oil companies” in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
She said Glencore has also admitted two charges of failing to prevent bribery over payments of approximately $1 million to agents in Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan, a portion of which Healey said was used to pay bribes to secure “valuable oil contracts”.
“The approval and offering of bribes was an acceptable way of doing business for the company” and that “corruption was endemic within the corporation,” Healey said.
Peter Fraser, the presiding judge, is expected to rule on the level of the fine on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Clare Montgomery, a lawyer representing Glencore, said Kalidas Madhavpeddi, the company’s chairman, who took up the post in 2021, was in court for the sentencing.
“The company unreservedly regrets the harm caused by these offences and recognises the harm caused, both at national and public levels in the African states concerned, as well as the damage caused to others,” she said.
“The chairman and the board who now run the company are committed to it in the future.”
In May 2022, the US department of justice had said Glencore and its UK subsidiaries entered into multiple agreements to purchase crude oil and refined petroleum products from the NNPC through shady deals.
The department said in Nigeria alone, Glencore and its subsidiaries paid more than $52 million to the intermediaries, intending that those funds be used, at least in part, to pay bribes to Nigerian officials.
Glencore agreed to pay around $1.5 billion in total to resolve investigations in the US, UK and Brazil, of which $1.06 billion was payable to agencies in the US and Brazil.
Glencore Energy, in June, pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in connection with oil operations across countries including Nigeria and Cameroon, following a UK serious fraud office (SFO) investigation.
Last year, Anthony Stimler, a former employee of Glencore’s West Africa desk, exposed Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s ex-petroleum minister, in a bribery scheme in the country.