BAT-sucked in alleged industrial espionage

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Fidelis Munyoro Assistant News Editor – 
British American Tobacco, which has been sucked in the case of alleged industrial espionage Zimbabwe is investigating, was once dragged to court in South Africa on similar offences, it has

Zimbabwe is investigating economic espionage involving an estimated R100 million worth of cigarettes local companies reportedly lost to armed syndicates in transit to South Africa over the past year.

Latest information reveals that BAT works with Forensic Security Services, a firm of private detectives, in carrying out corporate espionage on the continent. This confirms investigations by The Herald that Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa contracted Forensic Security Services to spy on Zimbabwe cigarette manufacturers (TISA). TISA has since denied involvement in the alleged corporate espionage. BAT is reportedly behind the formation of TISA.

The allegations arose after Savanna Tobacco, Kingdom, Breco trading as Fodya Private Limited, Trednet, Catrag and Chelsea lost cigarettes worth R100 million to organised hijacks.

A Nigerian newspaper, Premium Times, recently reported that in April 2002 a team of lawyers from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, obtained court orders in three South African High Courts authorising them to raid the offices of BAT, South African Revenue Services (SARS) and Forensic Security Services. Forensic Security Services subcontracted a local company TICOZ Protection Services to monitor indigenous cigarette manufacturers.

TICOZ also denies any involvement in espionage.
“The cloak-and-dagger intrigue followed allegations of phone-tapping and industrial espionage levelled by Pretoria-based cigarette manufacturing company Apollo Tobacco against BAT, the South African Revenue Services and Forensic Security Services,” the paper is quoted as saying.  Apollo was accusing BAT of spying on it.

The paper also said Apollo alleged that BAT conspired with SARS officials, using hired detectives and bugging devices to obtain confidential information about Apollo’s business operations.
Three High Court judges granted the applications by Apollo’s lawyers and ordered searches at the BAT offices in Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The lawyers were also allowed to search the offices of SARS and Forensic Security Services, which BAT reportedly hired to carry out surveillance on its competitor.
During the hearing, Apollo owner Hennie Delport told the judges that SARS and BAT used their reconnaissance to track aircraft transporting his goods between South Africa and warehouses in Zimbabwe.

BAT Zimbabwe is also at the centre of the espionage after it emerged last week that it had six years ago adopted an industrial espionage strategy to fend off stiff competition from indigenous cigarette manufacturing firms.

Internal documents shown to The Herald last week set out BAT Zimbabwe strategy to have a formalised espionage strategy, which enables the firm to be proactive and not be reactive to competitor movements, activities, and strategies and not to be caught unawares.
The strategy also involved identifying the company’s key contacts, people who could divulge strategic information and get sound marketing intelligence.

“This requires the design, implementation and management of an effective marketing intelligence system (MkIS),” read the internal document.
“An MkIS ensures an on-going information flow that enables the business to be reactive to competitor strategies and not to be following competitor tails.”

A BAT Zimbabwe spokesperson denied involvement in the alleged espionage, saying their company recognised that on occasion cigarettes sold to its domestic customers could end up illegally in neighbouring countries.

“As a responsible organisation, British American Tobacco Zimbabwe (Holdings) Limited, is committed to strict compliance with the various laws and regulations that govern the sale of its products,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said it was the company policy to only supply customers with quantities of products that are in company’s opinion consistent with customers’ legitimate business needs.
“The company’s sales will only be made to reputable customers who are, if required by law, licensed or otherwise to make sales of company products. The company will co-operate with appropriate governmental authorities to help eliminate the unlawful trade in the company’s products,” said the spokesperson.

Source: The Herald Online


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