Nigeria fails in request for compensation over Glencore corruption
A London judge has refused a request from Nigeria seeking compensation for bribery offences committed by Glencore when the commodities trader is sentenced next week for corruption.
Justice Peter Fraser on Wednesday said the government of Nigeria had no legal standing to seek compensation for offences committed on its shores because of the nature of UK sentencing rules, meaning it would have to use other avenues.
Glencore’s UK subsidiary admitted in June to seven counts of bribery spanning countries from Nigeria to Cameroon, following a Serious Fraud Office investigation into one of the world’s largest commodity traders. The probe formed part of a series of global investigations that Glencore has put aside $1.5bn to settle.
Nigeria on Wednesday asked the court to consider a compensation order that would recompense the country alongside any fine levied against Glencore at next week’s hearing. However, the judge ruled that only the prosecution or defence could ask for such an order, and neither had done so.
Lord Edward Garnier KC, representing Nigeria, said corruption was “grievously immoral and causes untold damage”, adding that resource-rich countries were “where you see companies like Glencore sucking the lifeblood out of the economy”.
A lawyer for the SFO said it had not asked the court to compensate Nigeria because there was not an “identifiable and quantifiable” loss to the country as a result of Glencore’s conduct, adding it should seek recourse through other means.
Governments, including Nigeria’s, have previously been compensated following SFO corruption probes. In February, the SFO announced Nigeria would be paid just over £200,000 out of a settlement it had agreed with engineering company Amec Foster Wheeler, to pay the country back for tax revenue it was deprived of as a result of bribes paid to officials.
Alexandra Healy KC, for the SFO, said on Wednesday that the loss to Nigeria had been clearer cut in that case.
Garnier said forcing Nigeria to seek compensation by other means, which would mean paying more in legal fees, was “not a just way . . . not a moral way” to approach the issue.
He said: “Achieving a large fine may be inwardly very attractive for the SFO because they get the congratulations of the attorney-general . . . but that’s money coming into the United Kingdom for offences committed in Nigeria.”
Glencore Energy UK was charged with profit-driven corruption by the SFO in May in connection to its oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan. The anti-graft agency’s probe revealed the company had paid more than $28mn in bribes to secure preferential access to oil, increased cargoes, valuable grades of oil and preferable delivery dates.
On Monday, a court in Southwark heard that as many as 11 former Glencore employees could be under investigation by the anti-graft agency and potentially face charges.
Two of the seven counts that Glencore pleaded guilty to concerned bribes paid to Nigerian officials at the country’s National Petroleum Corporation.
The UK probe was one of a series of investigations into bribery at the commodities house. Glencore has set aside $1.5bn to pay fines for bribery convictions in the US, UK and Brazil. Similar investigations into misconduct are still under way in Switzerland and the Netherlands, while the US Department of Justice has said it could still pursue individuals for their role in the bribery case.
Glencore declined to comment.