Mining giant Glencore has been hit with a multimillion-pound confiscation order and fines, in a landmark corporate conviction.
Glencore Energy UK Limited, part of the huge commodities trader, admitted five counts of bribery and two of failure to prevent bribery earlier this year.
On Thursday, at Southwark Crown Court, Glencore was given a confiscation order of £93,479,338.95.
It was also fined a total of £182,935,392 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4,550,362.
Passing sentence at the end of a two-day hearing, Mr Justice Fraser said: “The facts demonstrate not only sustained criminality but sophisticated devices to disguise it, including drawing significant cash sums for other stated purposes that would be legitimate, such as the expenses of opening a new office, which were in reality used for corrupt purposes.
“The bribery was across borders and in different jurisdictions.”
The judge said the company “played a leading role in organised and planned unlawful activity”, using agents and corrupting local officials in what was “an abuse of the defendant’s dominant market position”.
For some of the charges, he added, there were not “isolated acts of bribery that occurred on single occasions” but rather “the same techniques were used month after month, for the whole period covered by the relevant count in the indictment”.
Mr Justice Fraser said: “Bribery was clearly part of the culture for a number of personnel on the West Africa desk.
“These counts represent sophisticated offending that was sustained over prolonged periods of time that are measured in years.”
Confiscation is when a convicted defendant is ordered to pay back criminally obtained assets.
This is the first time a UK corporation has been convicted of authorising bribery from the top, rather than simply turning a blind eye to it at other levels of a company.
The £93 million is the largest amount that will have ever been recovered through confiscation in the UK, according to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The organisation said it is also a landmark corporate conviction and the first corporate prosecution under Section 1 of the Bribery Act 2010.
The SFO said it carried out a “large, highly complex” case reviewing more than one million documents and conducted interviews under caution.
Prosecutors said money to be used as bribes had often been flown by private jet.
BREAKING: £280 million penalty for Glencore Energy Ltd after an SFO investigation resulted in the company pleading guilty to seven counts of bribery.
— Serious Fraud Office (SFO) (@UKSFO) November 3, 2022
The court heard that Glencore’s anti-bribery and corruption policies and procedures had been “largely ignored because corruption was condoned at a very senior level within the company generally”.
Prosecutor Alexandra Healy KC told the court this week that Glencore had pleaded guilty to “paying bribes through its agents and employees to officials in several jurisdictions for commercial advantages, namely securing crude oil cargoes at specific grades and on preferred dates”.
Payments were made in Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast “through intermediaries, agents and employees intending a portion to be paid as bribes to those concerned in allocating crude oil, primarily officials in state-owned oil companies”.
In Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan, Glencore made payments to its agents and “failed to prevent them from using a portion of those funds to pay bribes to officials in order to secure valuable oil contracts”.
The judge said Glencore has 30 days to make all of the payments ordered.
Describing the total costs as “significant”, the judge warned that “other companies tempted to engage in similar corruption should be aware that similar sanctions lie ahead”.
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: “The SFO has today brought justice to bear and exposed what was a deliberate and endemic culture of bribery at Glencore.
“This has been a landmark case in UK anti-bribery enforcement, marking the first time since the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 that a corporate has been convicted for the active authorisation of bribery, rather than purely a failure to prevent it.
“For years and across the globe, Glencore pursued profits to the detriment of national governments in some of the poorest countries in the world. The company’s ruthless greed and criminality have been rightfully exposed.”