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Britain’s biggest tobacco companies bribed Mugabe

Issue 2773
Robert Mugabe in 1982 (Pic: Marcel Antonisse / Anefo)
Robert Mugabe in 1982 (Pic: Marcel Antonisse / Anefo)

A BBC Panorama investigation has found evidence that suggests one of Britain’s biggest companies paid a bribe to the former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

Documents show British American Tobacco (BAT) was involved in negotiations to pay up to £360,000 to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in 2013.

This was the year he won an election partly by ­unleashing systematic violence on the opposition and trade unions.

In Zimbabwe fighting the unregulated tobacco trade was outsourced to a South African private security company called Forensic Security Services (FSS).

Internal documents show in one operation, FSS staff were instructed to close down three cigarette factories run by BAT’s competitors in Zimbabwe.

FSS paid a local firm to conduct surveillance on a Savanna Tobacco factory in 2012, but the company got caught.

Three of its directors were charged in connection with illegal surveillance.

The arrests prompted the then president, Robert Mugabe, to make a speech condemning the men’s actions and BAT’s suspected involvement.

However, Panorama found that behind the scenes, contractors working on behalf of BAT were ­talking to Zimbabwean officials.

The man who was sent in to negotiate a deal told Panorama he bribed a number of government officials to secure a meeting to discuss the men’s case.

He said. “I had to make it clear that they’re going to expect a nice thick envelope of notes.”

The meeting led to an offer that the directors would receive favourable ­treatment if a large donation was forthcoming.

Within days of the deal being offered, all three ­directors were free.

The documents also reveal BAT was paying bribes in South Africa and using ­illegal surveillance to damage rivals.

  • Tobacco firm Philip Morris has sealed a £1.1 billion takeover of British inhaler maker Vectura. The company derives 75 percent of its revenue from cigarettes. So it makes millions of people ill by selling tobacco products to make profits. Then it makes more money by selling treatments for asthma. Tip for the next investment—funeral directors.

Did Trump want to bomb china?

The top US general secretly called his Chinese counterpart twice over concerns then-President Donald Trump could trigger a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath.

The Washington Post newspaper says US General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Li Zuocheng on 30 October 2020—four days before the election.

He did so again on 8 January, two days after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol.

In the calls, Milley sought to assure Li the United States was stable and not going to attack. And if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time, the report said.

Milley also reportedly discussed with other top officials, including the then-CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency head Paul Nakasone, the need to be vigilant amid concerns Trump could act irrationally.

Haspel was quoted as saying that they were in a “highly dangerous situation.”

But given what the US military and the CIA can do without Trump, who thinks they are a force for “moderation”?

Trump, in a statement, cast doubt on the story, calling it “fabricated.”

He added if the story were true Milley should be tried for treason.

Problems with pittance pension

Thousands of people who have claimed the state pension for the first time have faced delays of weeks or months for their payments.

The government has now admitted to problems with processing claims.

At the moment, men and women reaching the age of 66 are eligible to receive the state pension.

But the Department for Work and Pensions conceded this week that state pension payments to a number of individuals have been delayed due to “administrative reasons”.

The pension’s a pittance—and then they don’t give it to you.

French police and the ‘smoothie of shame’

French supermarket Monoprix has withdrawn a “smoothie of shame” after complaints from a police “union”.

The bottles, containing mango juice, are part of the “Rentree 2021” collection—referring to the start of the school year.

They were covered with sketches and expressions such as “fuck the system”, “I hate school” and “ACAB”, short for “all cops are bastards”. The union of the French National Police, tweeted that printing the slogan was “the perfect manual on how to destroy relations between the police and the people”.

True Fruit, the maker of the drink, responded that ACAB might have other meanings such as “All cats are beautiful” or “All clitorises are beautiful”.

Winchester, Eton and Harrow dares wins

When your job involves kicking down doors and killing foreigners, you might be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t really matter what school you went to.

But the SAS is getting worried that not enough posh officers are applying. The regiment has typically been led by former public schoolboys whose privileged education instils the leadership skills required.

But increasingly working class officers are applying to command the troops, to the annoyance of some.

One of the regiment’s warrant officers said, “Many of the most successful officers have been to the top public schools, but recently we have seen a number of guys coming forward who just don’t cut it. It’s a shame, but they are just not posh enough.”

Andy Haldane, former chief economist of the Bank of England and new head of Tory Levelling Up Taskforce said in 2016, “I consider myself moderately financially literate yet I confess to not being able to make the remotest sense of pensions.” To be fair he didn’t have to.

By February 2021 his accrued pension was £97,946 a year when he reaches the age of 60 in 2027. That grew grow by 1/50th of his £194,228 annual pay until he resigned in June.

Things they say

‘It’s fine for Tory MPs not to wear masks in the Commons because they’re not strangers’

Health secretary Sajid Javid thinks you can’t catch Covid-19 from people you know

‘Any indirect difference on treatment on the grounds of race is anticipated to be objectively justified’

Home Office document on the impact of the new police bill

‘The bill may place those from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities at a particular disadvantage. It is our view that any indirect discrimination towards the above communities can be objectively justified.’

More from the Home Office document


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