Sunday, March 30, 2014

Business Espionage: BAT Spies Smoking Gun

Sensational recordings and documents show how South Africa’s largest JSE-listed company, cigarette giant British American Tobacco (BAT), appears to be committing “industrial espionage” on a grand scale, running a network of “agents” placed to spy inside rival organisations.

This evidence, uncovered as part of a year-long Business Times investigation, raises questions about the tobacco company’s ethics, and highlights shady dealings that are understood to have been reported to the authorities in South Africa and the UK, where it is headquartered.

One agent, who was placed in a senior position within BAT’s rivals, said that BAT’s “worldwide” practice of making secret payments to agents could be considered “international money-laundering”.

“They had a deal to pay me for industrial espionage, and may I say I’m not the only one in our little circle. There are [government intelligence agents] who have left the state, and gone to work for BAT,” said the agent.

The claim that BAT was involved in spying on rivals is corroborated by affidavits, audio and video recordings, copies of financial transactions and the accounts of five cigarette manufactures, a state informant, sources close to the South African Revenue Services and one of BAT’s senior agents...

Business Times has a recording of a conversation between a senior BAT official and one of its secret agents, in which the tobacco executive tells the agent not to “sell us out” by spilling the beans on the spying. (more)