British American Tobacco PLC to plead guilty to NKorea sanctions violations -court filing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – British American Tobacco PLC will plead guilty on Tuesday to charges it conspired to violate U.S. sanctions by selling tobacco products to North Korea and to commit bank fraud, according to a U.S. court filing.

The company made the sales from 2009 to 2017 to the isolated Communist nation, which faces an array of U.S. sanctions to choke off funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile program.

BAT, the world’s second-biggest tobacco group, makes Lucky Strike and Dunhill cigarettes. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Its annual report for 2019 said the group has operations in a number of nations that are subject to various sanctions, including Iran and Cuba, and that operations in these countries expose the company to the risk of “significant financial costs.”

The U.S. Department of Justice charges said the company knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to defraud a financial institution and “to obtain money, funds, credits, assets, securities, and other property owned by and under the custody and control of a financial institution.”

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is conducting a separate ongoing investigation into BAT, relating to “suspicions of corruption in the conduct of business by group companies and associated persons.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Sharon Singleton)