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First on EWN: Whistleblower implicates B.A.T in dirty tobacco war
An explosive affidavit has revealed a smouldering corporate tobacco war between BAT & its competitors.
PRETORIA – A former policeman turned spy, and now whistleblower, has accused a global tobacco giant of dirty tricks and running a campaign to bully competitors out of the cigarette market.
The man, who cannot be identified yet, has claimed that British American Tobacco (BAT) allegedly hired spies, paid off the authorities and has corrupt government officials on its payroll.
The details are contained in an affidavit prepared by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) in a complaint to the Competition Commission.
Fita represents local, small-scale cigarette producers.
Dubbed ‘Operation Knysna’, the campaign was allegedly approved by BAT and executed by a company called Forensic Security Services (FSS), which apparently deployed a network of more than 170 spies.
A former employee states in a sworn affidavit that intelligence was gathered and fed to law enforcement agents, who were in-turn rewarded for carrying out unlawful search-and-seizure operations.
He says there was never any proof of illicit trading, however the campaign was aimed at ongoing disruption of competitor’s business until it was unfeasible for them to operate.
The man adds that the rationale was to create the perception in the marketplace that competitors' products were not worth keeping because of the risk of loss and that they were illegal.
Fita’s Sinen Mnguni says they have gathered substantial evidence to support the allegations, and will also be pursuing criminal cases.
BAT declined to comment.
(Edited by Tamsin Wort)