A subsidiary of the mining and commodities trading giant Glencore has pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in a London court.
The firm also said it will pay more than $1bn (£800m) to resolve similar claims with the US and Brazil.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office said it had exposed “profit-driven bribery and corruption” across Glencore Energy UK’s oil operations in five African nations.
The firm will find how much it must pay in fines at a sentencing in June.
It previously set aside $1.5bn to cover the investigations it faced in the UK, US and Brazil.
Glencore’s chairman said “unacceptable practices” had taken place in relation to the bribery charges it pleaded guilty to at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
The company’s agents and employees paid bribes worth over $25m for preferential access to oil, with approval by the company between 2011 and 2016, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.
The bribes were paid in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Sudan, it added.
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: “We won’t stop fighting serious fraud, bribery and corruption, and we look forward to the next steps in this major prosecution.”
In 2018, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) launched an investigation into Glencore’s compliance with American money-laundering and corruption laws dating back as far as 2007. It concerned the mining giant’s operations in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela.
The UK’s SFO followed suit in 2019, investigating one of Glencore’s UK subsidiaries over “suspicions of bribery” in Africa.
On Tuesday, the mining and commodities trading giant confirmed it had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act related to the group’s past actions in certain overseas jurisdictions.
It also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit commodity price manipulation related to past market conduct in certain US fuel oil markets.
As part of the plea deal with the DoJ, Glencore said an independent compliance monitor will be appointed for three years to check its “internal controls”.
It has also settled Brazilian bribery charges against it, but said Dutch and Swiss investigations remained ongoing.
Chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi said: “Glencore today is not the company it was when the unacceptable practices behind this misconduct occurred.
“The board and the management team are committed to operating a company that creates value for all stakeholders by operating transparently under a well-defined set of values, with openness and integrity at the forefront.”
Spotlight on Corruption, a pressure group, welcomed the charges but said it was essential that those responsible for the wrongdoing, including senior executives and the parent company, were held to account.
“It’s also critical that the $1.5 billion that Glencore has set aside to settle the investigations includes compensation for the victims of their alleged corruption in West Africa,” it said.
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