A few weeks ago BBC’s Panorama exposed corruption at one of Britain’s biggest companies: British American Tobacco. Reporter Richard Bilton uncovered evidence that employees bribed civil servants and politicians across Africa – undermining a United Nations campaign to save lives.
The evidence of bribery schemes conducted by the UK’s British American Tobacco (BAT) now shows that the alcohol industry is entangled, too. The scandal also involves BAT rival Mastermind Tobacco as well as East African Breweries Limited (EABL).
According to BBC investigation, BAT paid government officials to, among other ends, stifle competitors. EABL is drawn into the scandal after it emerged that a corporate affairs executive it hired from BAT Kenya, Julie Adell-Owino, organised payment of bribes to senior Kenya officials, including Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula, for reasons that were not explained. Ms Adell-Owino worked at BAT Kenya as the company’s chief lobbyist.
The ties between Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol are deep and close. Altria, formerly known as Phillip Morris, is the biggest shareholder in the world’s second largest beer producer SABMiller and also holds three positions on the board of SABMiller.
Ms Adell-Owino on Tuesday resigned from EABL, signalling that the brewer did not want to be associated with the corporate upheaval at BAT.
Paul Hopkins, who worked at BAT Kenya for 13 years, told the BBC investigative team that he and others, including Ms Adell-Owino, were tasked with the role of ensuring that “the competition never got a breathing space.”