Press release | June 3, 2019

Global Witness calls on UK and US to investigate BP and ‘City bad boy’ Frank Timis

Global Witness is calling on UK and US law enforcement to investigate oil giant BP and one of its partners in Senegal, notorious businessman Frank Timis, over an estimated $10 billion deal over offshore gas blocks. The details of the deal were revealed by the BBC on Monday.

The secret payments raise concerns that one of Britain’s biggest companies was 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 companies paid Aliou Sall as a consultant for several years before 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.

“This is one of the most serious corruption scandals ever to hit the oil industry. UK and US law enforcement should investigate whether Timis acquired or retained the blocks due to bribery—and whether BP ended up rewarding corruption to the tune of several billion dollars,” said Daniel Balint-Kurti, Head of Investigations at Global Witness.

As a British company, with shares traded on the London Stock Exchange and in New York, law enforcement authorities in the UK and the US would have a remit to investigate BP’s activities. Timis has strong UK connections, reportedly owning a Penthouse in London’s wealthy Knightsbridge area and having burnished his credentials by floating two companies on London’s junior stock exchange, the Alternative Investment Market.

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, the BBC’s Panorama and Africa Eye 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:

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.