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An explosive documentary aired by the BBC in late 2015 has led to calls by UK cancer researchers and US senators for the company to be investigated for bribery allegations. In the UK, the company could face unlimited fines if it is found to have breached the UK Bribery Act. If the allegations are proven in the US, offenders could be prosecuted under the Anti-Bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts. Penalties could include significant fines and possible jail time for BAT executives.

A screenshot from the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Secret bribes of big tobacco’

The BBC Panorama Investigation ‘Secret bribes of big tobacco’, alleged that payments ranging from US$3000 to US$20,000 had been made to politicians, government officials and World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) representatives to undermine tobacco control. The bribery was alleged to have occurred with representatives and politicians from Burundi, Cormoros, Rwanda and Uganda. It involved supporting BAT during FCTC negotiations about illicit tobacco, as well as sharing and amending draft tobacco control bills. Payments were also alleged to have been made to the Kenya Revenue Authority to obtain information about BAT's biggest commercial rival in the country.

The allegations came to light when Paul Hopkins, who worked for BAT in Africa for 13 years, turned whistleblower. He described to the BBC his role in bribing, applying pressure and undermining commercial rivals and provided a range of documents to support his allegations. He also secretly recorded conversations about making illegal payments to tax officials with his former boss Gary Fagan, the BAT area director for east and central Africa. A former BAT lobbyist in Uganda also alleged that he was authorised by BAT …

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