British American Tobacco (BAT) has stated that it intends to fully cooperate with a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into allegations it paid bribes in East Africa.
The allegations were first made in a BBC Panorama programme in 2015. BAT allegedly paid bribes to politicians and civil servants in East Africa to try and influence law surrounding the use of tobacco.
BAT has said that it has been investigating the claims through external legal advisers and is already communicating with the SFO.
The SFO has confirmed it is "investigating suspicions of corruption in the conduct of business by BAT plc, its subsidiaries and associated persons".
Aziz Rahman, founder of Rahman Ravelli, said that BAT’s dealings with the SFO and the extent of its cooperation will prove crucial in determining the nature and the size of any penalties imposed.
He added: “When Rolls-Royce was investigated by the SFO over allegations it had been involved in large-scale bribery abroad, it took a deliberate decision to investigate its problems and cooperate with the SFO.
“The investigation ended with Rolls-Royce having to pay a large amount of money under the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement. While this was costly, it did at least mean that the company did not have to face a criminal prosecution.
“BAT may well be hoping for a similar outcome, as a prosecution can be hugely damaging to a company.
“Much will now depend on how the firm manages its dealings with the SFO.’’
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