Alba chief says intimidated before UK graft trial
London, November 22, 2013
The chairman of Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) told a London court yesterday that lawyers had sought to intimidate him before he gave evidence in a criminal corruption trial, a report said.
Mahmood Al Kooheji was appearing as a witness at the trial of Victor Dahdaleh, a British-Canadian businessman accused of paying over $65 million in bribes to former Alba managers in return for a cut of contracts with suppliers worth over $3 billion, the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper said.
Dahdaleh, 70, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges brought by Britain's Serious Fraud Office related to events between 1998 and 2006.
Al Kooheji described a meeting that took place in London on April 4 this year, four days before Dahdaleh's trial was originally scheduled to start.
Present at the meeting were Al Kooheji and his lawyers, and Dahdaleh and three of his lawyers from Allen & Overy, a prestigious London law firm.
Al Kooheji said he had been led to believe that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss a possible settlement of a civil lawsuit brought by Alba against Dahdaleh in the US.
However, he said, the Allen & Overy lawyers were not interested in discussing that, but rather wanted to influence what he would say at Dahdaleh's imminent criminal trial in London.
"He (one of the lawyers) was telling me what I needed to say and I found that very intimidating," Al Kooheji said.
"We went to the meeting hoping to settle the US case, but it was very clear to me that they came to the meeting wanting to pressurise me and influence what kind of testimony I will give here."
The jury had previously heard that one of Dahdaleh's bail conditions was that he should not contact any prosecution witness.
As a result of the April 4 meeting, the trial was put back by seven months and Allen & Overy pulled out. Dahdaleh is now represented by another London firm, Norton Rose Fulbright.
Al Kooheji said the Allen & Overy lawyers had insisted that he should tell the court that he knew the payments that Dahdaleh had made to Alba managers had been authorised by senior government figures. The witness said he told them that was not correct and he would say no such thing under oath.