03 June 2019 – The BBC this morning exposed how oil giant BP promised as much as $10 billionto one of the world’s most notorious businessmen, in exchange for a stake in much coveted natural gas fields off the coast of Senegal. These secret payments raise concerns that one of Britain’s biggest companies could have been complicit in corruption, by rewarding earlier bribery.
Companies tied to businessman Frank Timis have been accused of bribery, lying to investors and links to human rights abuses. In Senegal, he was controversial for years before his April 2017 deal with BP, because of an allegedly corrupt relationship with Aliou Sall, the brother of the president.
Timis’s companies paid Aliou Sall as a consultant for several years in the run-up to the BP deal. Global Witness believes there is a risk that Aliou Sall used his family relationship to the president to further his and Timis’s business interests.
“The revelations of the secret and phenomenally large payments to such a controversial businessman, particularly given his ties to the president’s brother, raise serious corruption risks. BP could have ended up being complicit in corruption, by rewarding crooked dealings,” said Daniel Balint-Kurti, Head of Investigations at Global Witness.
“Aliou Sall had no experience of the oil and gas industry, and his most obvious qualification was that he was the brother of the president. These basic facts mean there were flashing danger signs of undue influence or bribery.”
BP paid Timis $250 million up-front for a 30% stake in the gas fields in April 2017, and on top of this promised him at least $9.3 billion in royalties over about 40 years, Panorama revealed. To put these figures into context, Senegal’s budget last year was $6.3 billion, and about 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. BP was aware of Timis’s relationship with Aliou Sall.
BP told the BBC that it “rejects any implication that it acted improperly”. It said it had “conducted extensive and appropriate due diligence”, in areas including “ethics compliance and anti-corruption” and that its investment would bring “substantial benefits” to Senegal.
Frank Timis said the BBC’s allegations “are entirely false” and that “there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever”. He denied allegations of bribe-paying. Timis’s full statement can be seen here: https://bbc.in/313NIvj.
The documentary by BBC’s Panorama and its investigative unit Africa Eye, called “The $10 Billion Energy Scandal”, airs at 20:30 GMT today (Monday June 3rd). A preview clip was published this morning.