(SOUTH AFRICA) JUST IN: A BBC Panorama investigation has found evidence that suggests one of Britain’s biggest companies paid a bribe to the former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Sept.13: Documents show British American Tobacco (BAT) was involved in negotiations to pay between $300,000 and $500,000 to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in 2013: The documents also reveal BAT was paying bribes in South Africa and using illegal surveillance to damage rivals.

#AceDailyNews says that according to BBC News British American Tobacco (BAT) negotiated bribe for Mugabe, new evidence suggests: BAT says it is committed to the highest standards of corporate conduct: President Mugabe’s 37-year rule was secured through elections marred by allegations of fraud and violence ….Watch BBC Panorama: Dirty Secrets of the Cigarette Business on BBC One on Monday at 19:30 BST

Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for decades

He was ousted in 2017 and died in 2019. The ruling party Zanu PF is now under new leadership.

In a joint investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the University of Bath, Panorama obtained thousands of leaked documents: They show how BAT funded a network of almost 200 secret informants in southern Africa.

Most of this work was outsourced to a South African private security company called Forensic Security Services (FSS) FSS was officially tasked with fighting the black-market cigarette trade, however former employees have told the BBC that they broke the law to sabotage BAT’s rivals: The Zimbabwe connection internal documents show in one operation, FSS staff were instructed to close down three cigarette factories run by BAT’s competitors in Zimbabwe: FSS paid a local firm to conduct surveillance on a Savanna Tobacco factory in 2012, but the company got caught.

Three of its directors were charged in connection with illegal surveillance: The arrests prompted the then president, Robert Mugabe, to make a speech condemning the men’s actions and BAT’s suspected involvement. However, Panorama has found that behind the scenes, contractors working on behalf of BAT were talking to Zimbabwean officials.

The man who was sent in to negotiate a deal, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Panorama he bribed a number of government officials to secure a meeting to discuss the men’s case: He said: “I had to make it clear that they’re going to expect a nice thick envelope of notes.”What is British American Tobacco?British American Tobacco is one of the world’s largest tobacco companiesIt is one of the UK’s ten biggest companies

It owns major cigarette brands including Lucky Strike, Camel and Pall Mall Last year, it sold close to 650 billion cigarettes: Documents seen by the BBC confirm that the man was provided with the equivalent of US$12,000 in local currency. They also suggest the money for the bribes was provided by BAT.An internal memo outlines the deal that was proposed.

The Zimbabwean official said that with the upcoming presidential elections, a donation to Mugabe’s party – Zanu PF – would help.

The memo said: “With this donation, they could then go back to the President” to try to get the problem sorted out.”The amount of the donation would have to be in the region of between USD300,000 to USD500,000 to Zanu PF,” it said. The documents do not show whether the bribe was in the end paid, but Panorama has spoken to three sources who have confirmed that BAT was aware of the terms of the deal on offer.Within days of the deal being offered, all three directors were free.

BAT declined to answer Panorama’s questions about the Zimbabwe payments, but it did not deny paying a bribe to Robert Mugabe.It is against UK law for a British company to pay bribes, no matter where the payment takes place.

The wider network FSS worked for BAT in southern Africa between 2000 and 2016: Evidence strongly suggests they bribed customs officials and police officers, and that BAT secured access to information from the police camera network, which was used to spy on its rivals. FSS tapped the phones of BAT’s competitors, placed tracking devices on their delivery vehicles and bribed staff to hand over information.

Documents show senior staff from BAT’s London HQ personally recruited and paid some of the informants working at competitors’ factories. BAT staff would also load cash onto currency cards in London and the informants could then withdraw the money anonymously in South Africa.

It is a payment system sometimes used by organised crime groups to evade detection. British American Tobacco: I was a spy for cigarette giant, says whistleblower.

BAT’s lawyers said the allegations are not new and that it was not unlawful to pay sources to gather information about criminal behaviour: They said the company rejects the allegation that any steps were taken with the aim of impacting the lawful activities of legitimate competitors or for commercial advantage.BAT said: “We emphatically reject the mischaracterisation of our conduct… Our efforts in combating illicit trade have been aimed at helping law enforcement agencies in the fight against the criminal trade in tobacco products. “Acting responsibly and with integrity underpins the foundations of our culture.”Ninety per cent of South African-grown tobacco is bought by BAT………This is not the first time BAT has been accused of bribery. In 2015, Panorama found the company had secretly paid politicians and civil servants in countries in east Africa to undermine anti-smoking measures. The revelations prompted a five-year investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Earlier this year, it concluded there was not enough evidence for prosecution. BAT says it fully cooperated with the SFO’s investigation, which included allegations relating to South Africa and which resulted in no action being taken.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Sept.13: 2021:

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Panorama’s Investigation of Global Fund Aid and Obtained Leaked Reports About Corruption

#AceWorldNews says a  report on corruption involving UK aid money has been watered down and another delayed, Panorama has discovered. 

WATCH : Panorama: Where’s Our Aid Money Gone?, BBC One, Monday 2 December at 19:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

Global Fund AidBBC: leaked report shows alleged corruption – involving tens of thousands of dollars – was discovered by investigators working for the Global Fund.

When the final report on the case was published, all but one of the allegations had been removed. The Global Fund says it is “transparent and has zero tolerance of corruption”. The Global Fund is one of the biggest providers of international aid and fights malaria, Aids and tuberculosis in the developing world. 

In 10 years the fund spent £13.5bn and saved millions of lives, the UK government recently announced it was giving the Global Fund £1bn according to an Internal draft. One official report looking at corruption in projects funded by the Global Fund in Cambodia was published two weeks ago.

But Panorama has obtained a leaked copy of an original internal investigation report from inside the fund.

There are significant differences between what the investigators wrote in the initial, leaked report and what the official one says.

Some of the allegations relate to money sent to a non-profit health organisation called Medicam by a British charity working for the UK government.

In the internal draft seen by Panorama they were accused of double billing for staff and computers, charging more than £61,000 for consultants who were never employed and charging thousands for hotels that were never used.

Richard BiltonPanorama obtained leaked reports about corruption in aid spending in Cambodia

The leaked report also detailed how investigators found allegedly falsified documents on the office computer of the director of Medicam, Dr Sin Sumony.

In the final report, just one of the four allegations remains.

Bea Edwards, from the Government Accountability Project in Washington, said: “The fact that a report is suppressed for almost a year and then is somewhat less detailed than the original version, that is a cover-up.”

The Global Fund said that “procedural due process made this report take longer than usual” and that only “evidence that can be confirmed as fact is included in the final version”.

The scope of Global Fund investigation reports “should be limited to Global Fund grants”, they said.

Panorama spoke to the director of Medicam, Dr Sumony, who sits on the Global Fund committee that oversees its projects in Cambodia.

“Number one, we did not commit that corruption, number two, through the Global Fund support, their financial management system has improved,” he said.

Dr Sumony confirmed they were about to receive more money from the Global Fund: “This year it is over $720,000.”

Mosquito net ‘scam’

Panorama also obtained an unpublished Global Fund report into corruption in Burkina Faso.

It details an alleged scam involving an £8.3m contract that might have left two million people more vulnerable to malaria.

MalariaThe BBC’s leaked copy reveals how a company with apparently no experience of supplying mosquito nets won a contract to provide two million of them.

The company took the £8.3m but bought cheaper nets from China that had not been properly treated with insecticide to kill mosquitoes.

The Global Fund announced it was replacing the nets last year and stressed that the nets “while untreated, still give protection”.

The fund said it had “since distributed replacement nets to replace all untreated bed nets“.

It said the investigation would be published when it was complete.

The leaked report shows that the investigation was completed a year ago but still has not been published.

Panorama has seen details of a series of investigations that were started more than a year ago but which have not been published. They reveal potential fraud of £16.5m.

The countries investigated are Niger, Ghana, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Global Fund says it doesn’t comment on open investigations and it expects to report on its findings.

It says the fund is transparent and has zero tolerance of corruption: “Twenty-seven reports have been published in the last 12 months. Standards of disclosure remain exceptionally high.”

Past controversy

Many of the investigations were initiated by the fund’s former inspector general.

In November 2012, John Parsons was sacked for “unsatisfactory” performance.

A year earlier his department had been described in an independent report as “the only risk-mitigation strategy within the Global Fund that has worked”.

Panorama can reveal that before he was dismissed, Mr Parsons wrote to his bosses complaining about “harassment, intimidation and retaliation”.

“Your true intention is to weaken the function, simply because you don’t like what we find and report upon,” he wrote.

Documents from inside the fund show the inspectors felt they were being undermined, saying they were repeatedly told “not to look so deep”.

One said: “The organisation, while parading ‘transparency’ and openness, in practice views disclosure of results as negative, harmful and unwanted.”

The Global Fund says it is “committed to a strong and effective office of the inspector general, and has not tried to weaken it at all”.

Global Fund for ChildrenThe fund denies it put pressure on inspectors to water down reports. “If the Global Fund saw disclosure as harmful, it could have stopped openly publishing reports. But it did not stop.”

Panorama: Where’s Our Aid Money Gone?, BBC One, Monday 2 December at 19:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

 

#acecharitynews, #bbc, #burkina-faso, #cambodia, #democratic-republic-of-congo, #global-fund, #government-accountability-project, #panorama, #the-global-fund-to-fight-aids-tuberculosis-and-malaria