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    Boxes of cigarettes are seen in a rack in a tobacco shop in Bremen, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.

    Tobacco Giant Accused of Sweetening Anti-Smoking Officials, Including WHO

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    One of Britain's biggest tobacco companies has been accused of illegally paying politicians and civil servant in East Africa in an attempt to thwart anti-smoking laws.

    British American Tobacco (BAT) is alleged to have paid two members of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) — a United Nations campaign supported by 180 countries which works to reduce tobacco-related deaths.

    The payments to three FCTC representatives were divulged to a team of investigative journalists by a whistleblower.

    Godefriod Kamwenubusa from Burundi, and Chaibou Bedja Abdou from the Comoros Islands were both allegedly paid US$3,000. Another man, Bonaventure Nzeyimana, a former FCTC representative for Rwanda was allegedly paid US$ 20,000.

    All three deny the bribes — but according to documents seen by BBC Panorama — the tobacco giant describes them as "unlawful bribes."

    And accusations of sweetening up the anti-smoking campaigners don't stop there. 

    The former Minister of Trade for Kenya, Moses Watangula was allegedly bribed by BAT, which paid for a business class return flight to London for his wife. Ugandan MP Dr Kasirivu Atwooki was allegedly given US$30,100 to make amendments on a report he was writing for a rival company and hand it to BAT in advance — he also denies the accusations of bribery.

    But Paul Hopkins, who worked for BAT for 13 years, told Panorama: "BAT is bribing people, and I'm facilitating it."

    Hopkins no longer works for the company.

    BAT denies the charges: "The truth is that we do not and will not tolerate corruption, not matter where it takes place."

    Meanwhile, Hopkins told reporters that bribery was part and parcel of doing business in Kenya.

    "It was explained to me in Africa, that's the cost of doing business."

    Under the UK Bribery Act, British companies can be prosecuted for bribery overseas.

    In April this year, the British government came under fire from doctors and campaigners, who accused the UK's top diplomat in Pakistan of breaking guidelines by attending a meeting with British American Tobacco. 

    During the meeting in Islamabad, BAT allegedly urged the Pakistani finance minister to drop plans for larger warnings on cigarette packets.

    Guidelines state that diplomats must not "lobby against any local administration's policies that are aimed at improving public health, or engage with foreign governments on behalf of the tobacco industry."

    Further allegations and revelations that one of world's largest tobacco firm paid off people employed to counter smoking-related illnesses has led to demands from anti-smoking campaigners that the Serious Fraud Office begin criminal investigations into BAT.

    Related:

    EU Watchdog Slams Secret Lobbying by Tobacco Giants
    No Smoke Without Fire: EU Forced to Come Clean Over Cigarettes
    Smoke and Mirrors: Report Exposes Huge Extent of Tobacco Lobbying
    Tags:
    lobbying, crime, bribery, whistleblowers, leaked documents, business, society, allegations, health, smoking, corruption, World Health Organization (WHO), Great Britain, Europe, Africa, United Kingdom
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