Wirral Council invests £38 million in company mired in allegations of bribery of foreign politicians and civil servants

Pensions Committee (Merseyside Pension Fund) 16th November 2015 L to R Peter Wallach, Cllr Paul Doughty (Chair)

Wirral Council invests £38 million in company mired in allegations of bribery of foreign politicians and civil servants


Pensions Committee (Merseyside Pension Fund) 16th November 2015 L to R Peter Wallach, Cllr Paul Doughty (Chair)
Pensions Committee (Merseyside Pension Fund) 16th November 2015 L to R Peter Wallach, Cllr Paul Doughty (Chair)

Towards the end of the BBC ten o’clock news yesterday evening after the stories about Syria, climate change and the doctors’ strike being called off there was a piece about British American Tobacco.

For those who don’t know Wirral Council (who manage the Merseyside Pension Fund) had (valued at March 2015) £38 million invested in shares in British American Tobacco. In fact it is their largest shareholding (see page 15 here). I will declare an interest as a close relative of mine is paid a pension by the Merseyside Pension Fund.

As the BBC only keep clips of the news available on BBC Iplayer for 24 hours, I felt it would be useful to have a transcript of the piece so that it reached a wider audience.

Huw Edwards: A BBC investigation has uncovered evidence of corruption and bribery at the UK’s fifth biggest company. BBC Panorama found British American Tobacco paid bribes to politicians and civil servants in countries across East Africa.

The illegal payments even undermined a United Nations initiative designed to save lives! The company could face prosecution around the world for failing to prevent bribery. BAT says it does not tolerate corruption.

Our special correspondent Richard Bilton reports.

Richard Bilton: This is northern Uganda, it’s tobacco country. Thousands of farmers work these hills, but there is another way to make money from this crop. We’re on our way to meet a very important man. This is a guy who helps to decide who gets to buy and sell tobacco and what we know about the man we’re on our way to meet is he’s corrupt.

This is Doctor Kasirivu Atwooki and we’ve seen documents that show he was paid $20,000 by BAT to change a parliamentary report. He doesn’t know, I know he’s corrupt.

If an MP, a sitting MP took a bribe, how would you feel about that?

Dr Kasirivu Atwooki: Well, that’s not acceptable.

Richard Bilton: You took a bribe though, didn’t you?

Dr Kasirivu Atwooki: Why should I?

Richard Bilton: You took $20,000 from BAT!

Dr Kasirivu Atwooki: From when?

Richard Bilton: In 2012.

Dr Kasirivu Atwooki: No, no, no, that’s not true!

Richard Bilton: Are you corrupt?

Dr Kasirivu Atwooki: I’m not!

Richard Bilton: The evidence suggests he is and we know because of this man. Paul Hopkins was in the Irish Special Forces before he joined BAT. He says he was told bribery was the cost of doing business in Africa.

Paul Hopkins: I was a commercial hit man. My job was to ensure that the competition never got a breathing space.

Richard Bilton: So BAT, they knew what they wanted you to do and they expected you to get on with it?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: And that included bribing?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: Breaking the law?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: Applying pressure?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: Undermining commercial rivals?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: And you were happy to do that?

Paul Hopkins: Yes.

Richard Bilton: BAT sold 667 billion cigarettes last year and made £4.5 billion profit, but the documents Paul has supplied show employees paid bribes to change anti-tobacco legislation, damage rivals, even undermine the UN effort to save lives.

Bribes were paid to three officials connected to a World Health Organisation supported campaign which aimed to reduce tobacco related deaths. I showed our evidence to the woman who runs the campaign.

Richard Bilton: That’s BAT paying a representative $3,000. What do you feel about that?

Dr Vera Luiza Da Costa E Silva (WHO): It’s a company that is err irresponsible to say the least. It’s using bribery to profit at the cost of people’s lives, simple as that.

Richard Bilton: BAT failed to answer any of our questions directly. Mr Durante? So I caught up with Chief Executive Nicandro Durante as he arrived at work. Sir, can I ask you a quick question? I’m from Panorama, why did you not respond to our emails about bribery? Is that the nature of BAT Sir, that you just put up with bribery?

Richard Bilton: BAT has since told us, the truth is that we do not and will not tolerate corruption no matter where it takes place. Our accusers in this programme left us in acrimonious circumstances and have a vendetta against us. The whistleblower is due to meet investigators from the UK’s Serious Fraud Office this week to discuss the bribery secrets of one of the UK’s biggest companies. Richard Bilton, BBC News.

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Author: John Brace

New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF.

12 thoughts on “Wirral Council invests £38 million in company mired in allegations of bribery of foreign politicians and civil servants”

  1. These people’s supposed bete noir Mrs Thatcher loved BAT. In fact she could be described as BATty – a quality obviously not picked up by Wirral and their fellow councils when doing an ethical search for quality companies to invest in.

    Any “most improved” council should have been pushing to dump these dodgy, lethal drug pushing chancers years ago.

    1. If I remember correctly the discussion at the last Pensions Committee about disinvesting was, officers stated that Wirral Council makes a lot of money from these companies which provides an income to provide pensions and if they keep their shares in unethical concerns then they have more influence over them than if they disinvested!

      I doubt this current story is helping BAT’s share price though….

  2. Bribery/breaking the law/applying pressure ? – sounds like Wirral Council and British American Tobacco are a perfect match.
    Excellent work John.

    1. Thanks, although I’m just doing this on the back of the BBC’s hard work (they should receive credit for this), but adding how British American Tobacco and Wirral Council are linked.

      What of course is interesting to I’m sure us both, is how BAT just blame it on the whistleblower, say how against corruption they are whilst not providing a detailed answer to the allegations! Deja vu eh?

  3. G’day John

    All joking aside I really believe Ecca is doing a great job.

    I sincerely hope he speeds up just before Xmas to get rid of the rest of the scum bags this month.

    I would luv as a Xmas present not to have to write to you in 2016 about the remaining scum bags that were involved in Wirralgate and Wirral “Funny” Bizz.

    He is obviously on a mission with a vow of silence…….. sound familiar.

    It is simples John just get rid of “Phil the Very Very Deluded Dill” “The Shyster” “The Pretend Friend” “Phil the Dill’s Ugly Twin Brother with the comb over from Hell” “He who can talk for twenty minutes…….” and especially “Ankles” and Crapapple”.

    In no particular order.

    What a breath of fresh air.

    Last warnings for “Crispy Creme Doughnut” and “she who thinks she has an art gallery named after her”.

    And then get rid of the biggest conman on Merseyside Fartin Lobsterpot who gets paid for telling “Phil the Very Very Deluded Dill” to keep his head down and say nothing…effectively getting paid for nothing, what a job.

    John if it was compulsory to vote in this country people might not be so couldn’t care less and have to think about what these scum bags don’t do or actually abet.



    1. As you are no doubt aware, it is down to the people of Wirral at election time to decide on their elected representatives, not the Chief Executive.

  4. G’day John

    As you are no doubt aware Wirral gets what it asks for there is no question.

    The local rubbish propaganda sheets usual Wednesday bullshit about Wirral so it is old news by the time people have to comment on the weekend.

    Guess where they will all be going for their cheap summer holidays as they are scared to go all the way to Reno because they know as cheating lying scum bags they will be divorced if they go to Reno?

    “Wirral Chamber signs partnership with Isle of Man in hope of creating business links and investment opportunities”.

    In other news in the same rubbish paper.

    Fartin Lobsterpot looks like he has been busy getting the fearful leader out to the schools.

    “Why don’t young people vote? Wirral Council chief goes to college in bid to end apathy in the UK”.

    “Phil the Very Very Deluded Dill” is out there showing them all how to hide Reports that are not favourable.

    If someone writes a report that you have not been good by breaking laws and not doing your work properly like say a super director called AdderleyDadderlyDooLally you just find a powerful friend like say “The Shyster” and hide the offending documents.

    I am so bored with all this John ask Ecca to sort out Wirral “Funny” Bizz my boy.



  5. Ethical investing I see. And anyway, I wouldnt be chuffed if my pension was coming from such a source and the fact that tobacco hardly has a bright future. idiots.

    1. The same arguments are being made about disinvesting from fossil fuel stocks as if agreements on climate change go through then many fossil fuel companies will have oil and gas fields that they can’t use.

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