The US Department of Justice and the UK Fraud Investigation Office issued statements on 24 May revealing that Anglo-Swiss trader Glencore has pleaded guilty to using bribes to obtain oil contracts in several countries around the world, including Cameroon.
As far as Cameroon is concerned, it is learnt that a lawyer for the multinational company had already stated on the eve of the plea that the company would plead guilty to corruption charges, including the payment of bribes of about FCFA 7 billion to induce officials of the National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH) and the National Refining Company (Sonara) to favour Glencore’s operations in Cameroon.
“Between approximately 2007 and 2018, Glencore and its subsidiaries paid approximately $79.6 million in payments to intermediary companies to obtain improper benefits: to obtain and retain contracts with state-owned and state-controlled entities in the West African countries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea. Glencore concealed the bribe payments by entering into false consulting agreements; paying inflated invoices; and using intermediary companies to make corrupt payments to foreign officials,” the US Justice revealed.
These revelations led Mr. Akere Muna, former president of the Cameroon Bar Association and former vice-president of Transparency International, to refer the matter to the president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Conac) on 27 May to denounce the admission of corrupt practices by Glencore Plc and the consequences on SNH and Sonara. “I have the honour to bring to your attention, for urgent action, information published by the Financial Times of London revealing that a foreign company will plead guilty to charges of bribery and corruption. As an activist committed to the fight against corruption for over two decades, I have been following the investigations launched in the US Department of Justice against Glencore Plc since 2018,” writes Akere Muna.
Akere Muna concludes his correspondence by “imploring the Conac to mount a robust investigation into this sordid affair involving two of Cameroon’s most important public companies”.
In a report entitled “Swiss traders, African oil and the risks of opacity“, published on 20 July 2014, a group of three organisations made up of the Berne Declaration, Swissaid and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (US), revealed that three Swiss traders (Glencore, Vitol and Gunvor) bought, during 2013, nearly 50% of Cameroon’s oil production accruing to SNH. “These purchases resulted in the payment to the Cameroonian state of nearly $600 million (about CFAF 300 billion), representing 12% of state revenue,” the report said.
However, the authors of the report note that the transactions carried out by these Swiss firms “present significant governance risks, as they occur in contexts characterised by weak institutions and endemic corruption”. Despite their importance, the report says, these sales are unregulated and do not benefit the populations concerned as they should. Moreover, these trading companies contribute to the opacity of these transactions.
In light of this, the rapporteurs recommended that “governments of African oil-producing countries and state-owned oil companies adopt standards that encourage integrity in the selection of buyers and the determination of the sale price, including the publication of details of sales of the state share of oil”.