British prosecutors are considering charges against senior individuals involved in the Glencore bribery scandal after the mining giant pleaded guilty in court to paying $28m in kickbacks.
The company admitted to seven counts of bribery on Tuesday following a years-long investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Through middlemen, Glencore employees paid tens of millions of pounds to corrupt foreign government officials to gain preferential access to oil cargoes.
The bribes were sanctioned at a high-level in the company and involved its oil operations in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan.
But while Glencore itself has pleaded guilty in the UK and US, the SFO faces calls to charge former executives alleged to have sanctioned the kickbacks.
The white collar crime agency has yet to charge any individuals but its investigation is still ongoing.
Only Anthony Stimler, a former senior trader on Glencore’s west African oil desk and a UK citizen, has been charged by American prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to bribery and has been cooperating with authorities.
US court documents reveal that three unnamed former executives at the company gave their “approval, and even encouragement” to the bribery scheme.
Charges filed in New York said they were among a group of employees behind corrupt payments “used to pay bribes to and for the benefit of foreign officials in order to secure improper advantages” between 2007 and 2018.
In one example, an individual dubbed “Executive 2” is said to have approved a $325,000 bribe in 2011 to a Nigerian official in connection with an oil deal. The bribe was paid via an unnamed intermediary.
The charges brought by the SFO under Section 1 of the Bribery Act 2010 also imply the involvement of high-level figures in the company.
Helen Taylor, legal researcher with Spotlight on Corruption, described Glencore’s guilty pleas on Tuesday as a “major corporate bribery conviction”.
But she added: “If the SFO wants to ensure effective deterrence and real accountability for corporate wrongdoing, the bottom line is that those senior executives who gave their backing to this bribery scheme must now be investigated promptly and prosecuted.”
At a hearing in Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, a judge said Glencore would be sentenced on November 2 and 3.
How one of Britain’s biggest bribery scandals engulfed the Glencore billionaires
Glencore’s float in London was the largest ever in the City. Valuing the company at £40bn in May 2011, it turned chief executive Ivan Glasenberg and his top lieutenants into billionaires and threw off millions in fees for its investment bankers – while also opening a window into the secretive, powerful world of global commodity trading.
Investors minded to look beyond the excitement and study the company’s 600-page float prospectus would have found a more sobering message, however. “Glencore is exposed to the risks of fraud and corruption both internally and externally,” it noted.
“Glencore seeks to fully comply with legislation… […] However, there can be no assurance that such procedures and established internal controls will adequately protect it against fraudulent and/or corrupt activity.”
At Glencore’s west African oil desk in London, trader Anthony Stimler was among those who knew how true that was. In 2007-2009, he was involved in talks with another trader about sending money to Nigeria to bribe government officials, he told a court in 2021.
From “around 2011 to 2018,” Stimler said he had approved bribe payments by Glencore intermediaries to help the company buy oil cargoes from the Nigerian government.
Stimler, who reportedly took a break from Glencore between 2009 and 2011 to care for his sick child, was among a generation of traders lured to the company under the hard-driving leadership of then chief executive Glasenberg.
Glasenberg, a former champion race walker averse to work-life balance, took the company from scrappy commodities trader into global mining and trading giant with revenues north of $200bn (£163bn).
He led it into the lucrative copper and cobalt belt of the Democratic Republic of Congo and, shortly after the London float, launched a £50bn takeover of rival Xstrata, turning Glencore into one of the largest companies on the FTSE 100.