The UK subsidiary of commodities trader Glencore has been ordered to pay Stg £281 million in a fine, confiscation order, and costs.
The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales describes the penalty as the largest of its kind in a corporate criminal conviction.
Glencore is the first business to be convicted under the Bribery Act 2010 for the active authorisation of bribery, rather than a failure to prevent it.
The Gazette says that the sentencing at Southwark Crown Court followed an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that revealed that Glencore had paid $29 million in bribes to gain preferential access to oil in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Sudan.
Glencore Energy UK pleaded guilty in June this year to seven counts of bribery.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Fraser said that “the facts demonstrate not only significant criminality, but sophisticated devices to disguise it”.
The “sophisticated offending was sustained over prolonged periods of time,” the judge said.
The penalty included a £93.5m confiscation order and a £182.9m fine.
The Gazette describes the fine as a welcome morale-booster for the SFO, which opened an investigation into Glencore in 2019, focused on the activity of the London-based West Africa desk.
The investigation uncovered a trail of text messages, large cash withdrawals, and deliberately concealed payments.
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: “Glencore pursued profits to the detriment of national governments in some of the poorest countries in the world. The company’s ruthless greed and criminality have been rightfully exposed.”
Glencore’s chairman Kalidas Madhavpeddi, who attended the two-day sentencing hearing, said in a statement: “The conduct that took place was inexcusable, and has no place in Glencore.”
The statement added that the company had “engaged in an extensive programme of corporate reform”.