The British American Tobacco (BAT) has fueled controversy after it was discovered by SARS to be involved in dishonest dealings of corporate espionage. Here are a few important facts about the company and their operations in South Africa.
By Rafieka Williams
1. Multi-Billion dollar company: BAT is a leading supplier of tobacco in the country and is the largest company listed on the JSE. They supply brands like Peter Stuyvesant, Lucky Strike, Dunhill and Craven A.
2. Getting rid of the competition: BAT was accused by rival companies for allegedly committing corporate espionage. BAT had apparently used underhanded methods to undermine their competition. It was said that BAT used spies and agents employed at competing companies to gain information to further their own agendas and stay ahead of the competition.
3. Guilty as charged:In 2014, South African Revenue Services (SARS) launched an investigation into the company. The investigation revealed evidence on affidavits, audio, video recordings and copies of financial transactions implicating the company of money laundering. Sources from SARS and a senior BAT agent confirmed these allegations.
4. Spies: Belinda Walters, employed at the State Security Agency was reported as being one of the agents involved in corporate espionage for BAT. According to City press she had an affair with SARS head of security in order to gain information. Michael Peega was also accused of being a double agent for both BAT and Forensic Security Services.
5. International Operations: Travelex was the service used for payment to various agents in different countries. BAT had reportedly recruited agents far and wide to spy for the company. They set up off shore accounts to pay these agents.
6. Not the first time: The allegations of corporate espionage is not new to BAT. In 2012, President Robert Mugabe warned the tobacco company about their dodgy dealings in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe independent reported that the president would take action against the internationally listed company for trying to out their Zimbawean competition Savanna.