Bahrain's Alba fights to continue US bribery case

State-owned aluminium producer says it overpaid by almost $500m for raw materials
Bahrain's Alba fights to continue US bribery case
US aluminium producer Alcoa is accused of bribing officials in Bahrain. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Bloomberg
Fri 02 Mar 2012 11:17 AM

Bahrain’s state-owned aluminum
producer has asked a court to let it proceed with racketeering claims that
it overpaid for raw materials because of bribes directed by Alcoa Inc,
the largest US aluminum producer.

Aluminium
Bahrain, known as Alba, claims that New York-based Alcoa bribed
senior officials in Bahrain and caused Alba to pay almost $500m
more than it should have for alumina, the principal raw material in
aluminum.

Alcoa has asked a judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the
alleged conduct took place outside the US and shouldn’t be litigated
in federal court.

Alba
countered that Alcoa and other defendants used offshore shell companies
to “perpetrate and conceal a massive, home-cooked bribery scheme
conceived, orchestrated, and directed in and from the United States,”
according to its filing in federal court in Pittsburgh.

Claims of
domestic leadership of the fraudulent scheme are “amply supported by
Alba’s detailed, specific, and documented allegations of actions in
furtherance of the scheme by senior domestic executives,” according to
the filing.

Alcoa argued
in court papers on January 27 that US District Judge Donetta Ambrose
should dismiss the complaint because federal law doesn’t apply to
“allegations of essentially foreign enterprises and foreign acts of
bribery.”

Ambrose had
administratively closed the case in March 2008, a month after Alba filed
it, when the US Justice Department said it was investigating whether
Alcoa made corrupt payments in Bahrain. The judge agreed in November to
Alcoa’s request to reopen the case so that the company could file a
dismissal motion asserting that racketeering law “does not apply to the
extraterritorial conduct” claimed by Alba.

Lori Lecker,
an Alcoa spokeswoman, said in an e-mail on Thursday that “Alba’s
allegations remain unsupported by law or by fact.”

The new
filing was Alba’s “third opportunity to articulate its claims since we
moved to reopen this case, yet Alba’s brief does nothing more than
repackage legally insufficient allegations in an attempt to survive the
motion to dismiss.”

One
defendant is British investor Victor Dahdaleh, who was charged October 24
in the UK with six counts of making corrupt payments, two counts of
money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to corrupt. He is accused
of paying bribes to Alba officials to win contracts for Alcoa.

A former
Alba executive, Bruce Allan Hall, was charged February 15 by UK
prosecutors with corruption and money laundering. Hall was extradited
from Australia to London to face the charges.

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