Billionaire Victor Dahdaleh did not dispute that he paid £38m to Sheikh Isa bin Ali al-Khalifa, Alba’s former chairman and a close adviser of the prime minister, to win $3bn of contracts for companies including Alcoa of the US. Mr Dahdaleh’s lawyers argued in court, however, that the payments were not corrupt because they were known about and approved by Alba’s government-controlled board. ...This comes, of course, fourteen months after Alba's $85m settlement of a separate bribery suit with Alcoa filed in a U.S. court. Yes, that's right: Alba successfully sued Alcoa for bribing its [Alba's] own executives, namely Sh. 'Isa.
Bruce Hall, Alba’s former chief executive, has pleaded guilty to corruption and will be sentenced shortly. During his cross-examination, he agreed with the description of tensions in Bahrain, where “the royal family is all-powerful” and where “nothing of significance happened in Bahrain without the approval of the prime minister.”
Mr Hall described Alba’s board as “dysfunctional,” agreeing with the premise that the majority Bahraini members “accepted that what Isa and the prime minister said, went”.
The trial also highlighted tensions within the ruling family. Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the reformist-minded crown prince, led attempts to reform Alba well before the unrest of the Arab uprising reopened Bahrain’s sectarian divide.
The court heard that Mr Hall was summoned to the crown prince on his appointment as chief executive in 2001 and asked to report any corruption he might witness. But Mr Hall said that he felt he could only report to the crown prince if Sheikh Isa knew.
A turning point that helped hasten the trial’s collapse was a letter from one of Bahrain’s five deputy prime ministers, Jamel Saleem al-Arayed, who also advises the prime minister on legal affairs. He wrote that all payments made by Mr Dahdaleh in connection with Alba were known about by its board.
The letter was read out during cross-examination of Sasi Mallela, an SFO lawyer.
Al-Wifaq is calling for an independent investigation -- in Bahrain, that is, rather than the U.S. or Britain. For now, Bahrain seems happy to outsource the rule of law.
One hopes that some non-"opposition" groups will be willing to cross the political line here to join al-Wifaq and others in calling for a domestic investigation, since that's the only way there is a chance of one.