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Glencore UK subsidiary ordered to pay $310 million over bribery

FILE PHOTO: The logo commodities trader Glencore is pictured in Baar

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) -A British subsidiary of mining and trading group Glencore was ordered to pay a total penalty of 276.4 million pounds ($310.6 million) in a London court on Thursday for seven bribery offences in relation to its oil operations in Africa.

Glencore Energy UK Limited was ordered to pay a 182.9 million pound fine by Judge Peter Fraser at Southwark Crown Court, who also approved a 93.5 million pound confiscation order.

"This is a significant overall total," the judge said. "Other companies tempted to engage in similar corruption should be aware that similar sanctions lie ahead."

The judge said the offences to which Glencore had pleaded guilty represented "corporate corruption on a widespread scale, deploying very substantial sums of money in bribes".

He added: "The corruption is of extended duration, and took place across five separate countries in West Africa, but had its origins in the West Africa oil trading desk of the defendant in London. It was endemic amongst traders on that particular desk."

On Wednesday, Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) told the court that Glencore Energy UK Limited paid – or failed to prevent the payment of – millions of dollars in bribes to officials in the five African countries, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.

Employees and agents of the company used private jets to transfer cash to pay the bribes, prosecutors said.

The UK subsidiary pleaded guilty in June to the seven bribery offences.

Glencore, a Swiss-based multinational, said in May it expected to pay up to $1.5 billion in relation to allegations of bribery and market manipulation in the Brazil, Britain and the United States.

Clare Montgomery, representing Glencore, said: "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."

Judge Fraser said in his sentencing remarks: "Glencore has engaged in corporate reform and today appears to be a very different corporation than it was at the time of these offences."

Glencore’s Chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi – who attended the two-day sentencing hearing – said in a statement: “The conduct that took place was inexcusable and has no place in Glencore.”

Glencore has "engaged in an extensive programme of corporate reform," the blue-chip company said in the statement.

The company also said that the sentencing “fully resolves” the investigation by UK authorities and that the aggregate payments to resolve investigations in Britain, Brazil and the United States "do not differ materially from the $1.5 billion provision recorded in Glencore’s FY2021 results".

Sara Chouraqui, joint head of fraud, bribery and corruption at the SFO, said outside court that the penalty “sends a message [about] the seriousness of the offences and the fact that the SFO is determined to prosecute criminals, regardless of the complexity and of the type of actors”.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin, additional reporting by Muvija M; editing by William James and Barbara Lewis)