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Wed 26 Oct 2011 08:47 PM

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US aluminium producer wants Alba lawsuit reopened

Alcoa Inc was sued by Bahrain company over claims that it bribed senior officials

US aluminium producer wants Alba lawsuit reopened
Alcoa Inc, the largest US aluminum producer, wants a racketeering lawsuit filed against it by Alba reopened. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Alcoa Inc, the largest US aluminum producer, wants a racketeering lawsuit filed against it by Bahrain’s state-owned aluminum producer reopened by a judge, saying that it will seek to dismiss the case.

Aluminium Bahrain, known as Alba, sued in February 2008, claiming that Alcoa bribed senior officials in Bahrain and caused Alba to pay inflated prices for alumina, the principal raw material in aluminum. The case against New York-based Alcoa was filed in federal court in Pittsburgh.

A month later, US District Judge Donetta Ambrose halted the case after the US Justice Department said it was investigating whether Alcoa made corrupt payments in Bahrain.

The judge also administratively closed the case, “to allow the government to fully conduct an investigation without the interference and distraction of ongoing civil litigation,” court records show.

In a filing on Tuesday, Alcoa asked Ambrose to reopen the case and also sought permission to file a motion seeking its dismissal because racketeering law “does not apply to the extraterritorial conduct” alleged by Alba. Alcoa said Alba should be required to file a statement laying out its racketeering case.

Alcoa has cooperated over the past three years in the Justice Department probe and a related investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the filing.

“The federal investigation is ongoing and we continue to cooperate,” Alcoa spokesman Michael Belwood said on Wednesday in an interview.

On October 24, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office charged Victor Dahdaleh, a British and Canadian national who lives in London, with paying bribes to officials of a smelting company in Bahrain to win contracts for Alcoa to supply alumina. Dahdaleh, 68, is the owner of Dadco Group, according to his lawyers.

“Dahdaleh believes the investigation into his affairs was flawed and that he has done absolutely nothing wrong,” his law firm, Allen & Overy, said in a statement. “He will be vigorously contesting these charges.”

Dahdaleh was charged with corruption and transferring criminal property over a four-year period until 2005. He allegedly bribed officials of Alba, which is majority-owned by the state, for alumina supplies shipped to Bahrain from Australia on behalf of Alcoa, the SFO said. He is also accused of paying bribes to supply goods and services to the Bahraini company.

Dahdaleh is a board trustee of the William J Clinton Presidential Foundation and runs the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Charitable Foundation, which grants scholarships to needy students, according to his website. He was released on bail until an October 31 hearing at a London criminal court.

Dahdaleh is among donors who gave as much as $5m to Clinton’s foundation.

An Alba attorney, Mark MacDougall of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Alcoa’s request.