Fuel giant in trouble

The Institute of Security Studies said this week if Sasol was being investigated for bribery of officials in another country, then South African authorities may also investigate the company under an untested section of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

Bribery of foreign public officials is a criminal offence under the act, which was signed into law in April 2004.

Punishment under the act would theoretically render Sasol unable to secure government contracts for up to 10 years, said Hennie van Vuuren, head of the institute’s corruption and governance programme.

Company employees found guilty of bribery could also face life sentences.

Sasol said yesterday the probe by Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission was a “preliminary inquiry” into “National Liquid Fuels as an entity”.

National Liquid Fuels is 49 percent owned by Sasol and the balance by an empowerment group. It is registered in Namibia.

Sasol has said it was not aware of any investigation involving Sasol itself.

However, director Paulus Noa of Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission said this week that Sasol itself would be investigated in relation to bribery.

Senior Namibian government officials were allegedly enriched by the deal to supply R800m of fuel annually to Namibia for three years, Noa said.

Sasol said an earlier investigation into the matter had been undertaken by Namibia’s Central Governance Agency.

The group said in a statement that the agency reported back to the secretary of parliament late last year that it had not found any irregularities with the process of awarding the tender.

“. . . we believe that with transactions of this nature there will always be parties who are dissatisfied with perhaps being excluded from participating in the transaction in some form or the other,” Sasol spokeswoman Marina Bidoli said yesterday.

She also warned that Sasol took “strong exception to unsubstantiated public claims” made against the company.

Bidoli said Sasol would co- operate in the investigation and awaited the outcome “eagerly”.

A spokesman for the South African Police Service commercial crimes unit could not immediately say this week whether Sasol would be investigated.

July 2006
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