From Reuters news agency:
Bahrain PM’s role in disputed aluminium deals probed at UK trial
By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON Mon Dec 2, 2013 4:45pm GMT
A British court saw documents on Monday purporting to show that Bahrain‘s prime minister had direct influence over the affairs of aluminium smelter Alba when it was making deals now at the heart of a major corruption case.
The documents were shown by a lawyer for British-Canadian businessman Victor Dahdaleh, who is on trial accused of paying some $67 million (40.9 million pounds) in bribes to former Alba managers in return for a cut of contracts with suppliers worth more than $3 billion.
One of Britain’s biggest corruption cases for years, the trial has opened a rare window onto business practices normally shielded from public view in secretive Bahrain and comes at a sensitive time of political unrest in the tiny Gulf kingdom.
London-based Dahdaleh, 70, has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges brought by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to events between 1998 and 2006 at Bahraini state-controlled Alba, the world’s fourth-largest aluminium smelter.
Defence lawyer Nicholas Purnell has sought to persuade the jury that the payments made by Dahdaleh were part of Bahraini “custom and practice” and were approved by royal family member Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the prime minister.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa is the uncle of the king of Bahrain. Many times, pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain have demanded his resignation, and replacement by a new prime minister, accountable to the people.
Reuters was unable to reach Sheikh Khalifa for comment.
During cross-examination of a witness, Purnell showed the court several letters from early 2003 in which Alba’s then- chairman, Sheikh Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa, sought and obtained the prime minister’s approval for key business decisions.
One of the issues discussed in the letters was a proposed strategic cooperation agreement with U.S. metal giant Alcoa.
The Alba-Alcoa relationship is central to the trial because the bulk of the bribes allegedly paid by Dahdaleh were linked to the renewal of a multi-billion-dollar contract for long-term supply of the raw material alumina by Alcoa to Alba.
Sheikh Isa, the main recipient of the alleged bribes, has denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued by his lawyer. Alcoa has declined to comment on the case during the trial. Alba, now under new management, is cooperating with the SFO.
Monday’s witness, Alba board member Mutlaq Al-Morished, told the court that Sheikh Isa had never informed the board that Bahrain‘s prime minister had a role in Alba’s affairs.
Al-Morished has sat on the Alba board since 2003 as one of three representatives from Sabic, a huge Saudi state-controlled industrial group that is a minority shareholder in Alba. Al-Morished is Sabic’s chief financial officer.
Al-Morished said he had known nothing about payments by Dahdaleh to Sheikh Isa and had heard of them only years later, adding: “It’s totally unacceptable and we never knew … It makes me sick.”
(Additional reporting by William Maclean in Dubai; Editing by Gareth Jones)
A deputy prime minister of Bahrain sought to intervene in a British bribery prosecution by writing to the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and to the British government’s legal adviser, a London court heard on Thursday: here.
A Bahraini government minister intervened in a $3bn UK criminal case by telling the UK attorney-general that allegedly corrupt payments to a senior member of the Gulf’s state ruling family were known about and approved, a court heard on Thursday: here.
Washington D.C. – Human Rights First today calls on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to speak out for real reform in Bahrain as he travels to the kingdom this week and to make clear that the United States will use its military relationship with the Bahrain government to press for desperately-needed change. On December 7 and 8, Secretary Hagel will lead the U.S. government delegation to the Manama Dialogue, a security conference hosted by Bahrain: here.
In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, a court has denied a bid for early release from leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison last summer as part of a government crackdown on dissent. According to Amnesty International, he has reported dire prison conditions, including being kept in solitary confinement with a dead animal in his cell. Rajab’s lawyer said he is eligible for early release under Bahraini law, but the request was rejected on Sunday. Bahrain is a close ally of the United States: here.
A major anti-corruption trial brought by the Serious Fraud Office collapsed today following the intervention of the deputy prime minister of Bahrain and sudden withdrawal of key witnesses: here.
- Alba ex-executive alleges corruption at Bahraini aluminium smelter (theguardian.com)
- Labour donor Victor Dahdaleh ‘paid £40m bribes to secure aluminium contracts’ (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Former Alcoa agent Dahdaleh accused in U.K. corruption trial (fcpablog.com)
- Labour donor Victor Dahdaleh ‘paid £40m bribes to secure aluminium contracts’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- British Typhoon warplanes to Bahraini dictatorship (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Billionaire Labour donor and friend of Tony Blair ‘paid £40million in bribes to secure aluminium contracts’ (dailymail.co.uk)