British American Tobacco (BAT) has been receiving media scrutiny about a scandal linking the company to espionage since early 2014. Here is what you need to know:
- Recordings and documents indicating that BAT may be committing “industrial espionage” by paying agents to spy on the inside workings of rival companies, was obtained and surfaced by Business Day in March 2014.
- Project Smoke, apparently established by officials from the State Security Agency, was set up to reveal whether BAT’s dealings have been shady. However, it appears as if the Forensic Security Services have been helping with BAT’s espionage that they were contracted by the tobacco company. Invoices obtained by Business Day proved BAT was billed R1.38m in December 2012 for surveillance/ spy equipment.
- Ewan Dunca, head of BAT’s international anti-illicit tobacco programme was linked to a South African Revenue Service (SARS) probe into payments made to the spies or informants. It was described as “al-Qaeda styled” payments by a government official.
- Kyle Phillips, director of tobacco producer, Carnilinx, claimed that an angry Belinda Walter (SARS spy investigator) divulged information to representatives of Carnilinx that she and her then boyfriend and SARS spy, Johannes Hendrikus van Loggerenberg were informers for the State Security Agency and BAT UK. The day after she retracted all allegations.
- On 7 April 2014 BAT South Africa responded to media reports linking the company to alleged espionage, where Managing Director, Brian Finch, stated that they committed “to using all legal means at their disposal to uncover information about illegal activities” within the industry.