Press release – FITA – for immediate release
FITA Press Release 27 February 2021
We are not at all surprised by the revelations contained in a report released on 26 February 2021 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project into allegations of inter alia smuggling against British American Tobacco and a host of other multinationals in West Africa.
We have for years on record stated that multinational cigarette manufacturers are the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to divert the attention away from their multiple shenanigans by continuously pointing their dirty fingers at smaller independent local cigarette manufacturers, and using their influence to direct law enforcement agencies, sections of the media, and government bodies to their competitors whose operations and influence are incomparable to those of these multinationals.
What is most shocking about these new allegations is the revelation that BAT knowingly and internationally started to oversupply cigarettes to Mali soon after the north fell to militants, knowing its product would be fodder for traffickers, according to dozens of interviews.
The report further goes to state that “most common are Dunhills, produced in BAT’s factories in South Africa, and Philip Morris’ flagship brand Marlboros, which are handed to smugglers linked to armed groups by PMI’s politically connected representative in Burkina Faso, along with American Legends”.
We recall of course during the initial stages of the lockdown period in SA how hard this particular manufacturer pushed to be granted permission to fulfill its export obligations, with allegations surfacing that it was caught producing for export while this was prohibited.
All of this is quite ironic given that BAT and its many mouthpieces have recently become very vocal against these very same practices, pointing fingers at certain independent manufacturers.
We have long supported the view advanced by independent academics and researchers that Big Tobacco cannot and should not be trusted when it comes to understanding the shape and form of the illicit trade. The narrative advanced by multinationals and their lapdogs serves only to advance the commercial interests of these multinationals, and is not in anyway done with the best intentions of any state they trade in, despite what they seek to portray. They have repeatedly been caught with their pants down throughout the globe while using their power and influence to point the authorities towards their commercial competitors.
We therefore call on the relevant authorities, both locally and in the other countries mentioned, to investigate these very serious allegations. It appears Big Tobacco feel they can indefinitely continue to act with impunity, not only in South Africa, but throughout the entire African continent.
We further call for the immediate release of the findings the independent investigation which was commissioned by BATSA in 2016 into the host of allegations such as corruption, money-laundering and espionage against this particular multinational.
Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni 27 February 2021
For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za