Call to sue Alba bribes case guilty
Manama, October 11, 2012
Bahrain has been urged to prosecute everyone involved in a major bribery case that led to Alba paying $420 million in inflated prices for raw materials.
The company reached a $447 million out-of-court settlement with US company Alcoa on Tuesday, four years after filing a racketeering and fraud lawsuit against the aluminium giant.
The civil case alleged firms related to the New York-based company paid $9.5 million in bribes to ensure the Bahrain smelter overpaid for raw materials.
The money reportedly went to Bahrain officials and Alba executives and resulted in the company paying $420 million in inflated prices between 1997 and 2009.
Former Alba chief executive Bruce Hall, 58, was arrested last October on corruption charges related to the scandal during his four-year stint with the company.
The company is also pursuing legal action against billionaire businessman Victor Dahdaleh for corruption charges related to the supply of alumina, the raw material used in aluminium, and a trial is scheduled to begin in London in April.
But Bahrain Transparency Society chairman Abdulnabi Al Ekry called for MPs to intervene to stop the out-of-court settlement and said everyone involved must be prosecuted.
"This deal has obviously closed the lid on all those officials in Bahrain who took bribes," he said.
"What happens to those people who took bribes?"
Al Ekry also expressed surprise that Alba settled for less than half the $1 billion it initially filed for damages.
He also questioned why the company did not stop dealing with Alcoa as soon as the serious allegations of fraud emerged.
"A parliamentary committee in Bahrain has concluded corrupt practices took place in Alcoa's dealings with Alba, so it is surprising Alba continues to deal with them," Al Ekry said.
"And why is it so important for Alba to continue dealing with Alcoa after all that happened?”
"Why is Alba not looking at getting its alumina from, say, Malaysia or Australia?"
Alba officials did not respond in time to comment, but chairman Mahmood Al Kooheji described the deal as a "historic day" in the company's history during a press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa on Tuesday.
He said the settlement marked a turning point for the company following its campaign to recover losses it suffered for more than 20 years.
Al Kooheji, who previously worked as a Finance Ministry representative on the Alba board, revealed the company had already received half of the $85 million Alcoa had agreed to pay in cash, as part of the settlement and the remainder would be recovered in rebates and other concessions over an unspecified time period. – TradeArabia News Service