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Wed 9 Nov 2011 08:52 AM

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US court orders reopening of Alba bribery lawsuit

Bahrain state-owned firm filed a racketeering lawsuit against New York’s Alcoa in 2008

US court orders reopening of Alba bribery lawsuit
Alcoa has won a ruling to review a racketeering lawsuit filed by Alba in 2008 \n (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

A US judge reopened a racketeering lawsuit filed by
Bahrain’s state-owned aluminum producer against Alcoa Inc, the largest US
aluminum producer.

Aluminium Bahrain BSC, known as Alba, sued in February 2008,
claiming that New York-based Alcoa bribed senior officials in Bahrain and
caused Alba to pay inflated prices for alumina, the principal raw material in
aluminum. A month later, US District Judge Donetta Ambrose administratively
closed the case in federal court in Pittsburgh after the US Justice Department
said it was investigating whether Alcoa made corrupt payments in Bahrain.

Alcoa asked Ambrose last month to reopen the case and sought
permission to file a motion seeking its dismissal because racketeering law
“does not apply to the extraterritorial conduct” alleged by Alba.

Ambrose ruled today that Alba can file an amended complaint
within 20 days, and a statement laying out its racketeering case within 30 days
after that. The case statement will remain under court seal, along with any
motion by Alcoa to dismiss the lawsuit, she said.

“The court will revisit the issue of unsealing any sealed
portion of the record, if necessary, within six months of the date of this
order, unless the government provides good cause against such unsealing,” she

Lori Lecker, an Alcoa spokeswoman, said in an email the
company is pleased that the judge has granted the company’s request to re-open
the case.

“After three-and-a-half years we can have our day in court,”
she said. “We look forward to filing our motion to dismiss.”

The company has said it has cooperated over the past three
years in the Justice Department probe and a related investigation by the US Securities
and Exchange Commission.

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

On Oct. 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. He denies wrongdoing, according to his law firm, Allen & Overy.