LONDON - A British subsidiary of mining and trading giant Glencore on Tuesday formally pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in connection with oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.
At a Southwark Crown Court hearing in London, Glencore Energy admitted to paying more than $28 million in bribes to secure preferential access to oil and generate illicit profit between 2011 and 2016. The company will be sentenced on Nov. 2 and 3, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, or SFO, said.
Glencore, a Swiss-based multinational, has already said it expects to pay up to $1.5 billion to settle allegations of bribery and market manipulation and three subsidiaries in the United States, Brazil and Britain have now pleaded guilty to criminal offenses.
U.S. authorities will see the bulk of those funds after Glencore agreed to a $1.1 billion U.S. settlement last month to resolve a decade-long scheme to bribe foreign officials across seven countries - and separate charges alleging a trading division manipulated fuel oil prices at U.S. shipping ports.
But the guilty plea by a corporate heavyweight in London is a much-needed boost for the SFO, which has faced sharp criticism and awaits the outcome of a "forensic" government-ordered review after senior judges overturned two convictions in its Unaoil bribery investigation because of disclosure failings.
"The SFO's success with Glencore will certainly not protect it from any flak that comes its way,' said Syed Rahman, a partner at Rahman Ravelli. "But the result it has in this case is an indicator of what the agency is capable of when it does not make mistakes."
Helen Taylor, a legal researcher at pressure group Spotlight on Corruption, urged the SFO now to investigate and prosecute senior executives who had condoned the wrongdoing.
The SFO said only that its Glencore investigation was ongoing.
Glencore is also paying $29.6 million directly to state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras in compensation for defrauding the company and roughly $10 million to authorities in civil penalties, prosecutors have said.