Thursday, December 12, 2013

More embarrassment for Britain's Serious Fraud Office as it's forced to drop a case against Tony Blair's friend that cost taxpayers £1.4million

The Serious Fraud Office faced further embarrassment after it was forced to drop a high-profile case estimated to have cost the taxpayer £1.4 million.

Victor Dahdaleh, 70, a friend of Tony Blair, was accused of paying £39 million to the Bahraini royal family to secure multi-billion pound aluminium contracts.

Dahdaleh was said to have handed around £3 million in kickbacks to Bruce Hall, 61, the chief executive officer of smelting firm Alba, who spent some of his cash gains on luxury property, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Hall already admitted conspiracy to corrupt and gave evidence against Dahdaleh.

But his testimony was so different from his statements to the SFO that the agency had to throw in the towel seven weeks into the case.

Two witnesses from the US were also unwilling to attend the trial.

In a statement the agency said: ‘The SFO has today offered no evidence against Victor Dahdaleh, having concluded that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction in this case.

‘The SFO had previously obtained the conviction of a conspirator, Bruce Hall, who pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to corrupt.

'Mr Dahdaleh was the only remaining defendant in the case.’

Dahdaleh a Jordanian-born metals magnate allegedly issued orders for the payments, totaling more than £40million, to be made using a fax machine at his home in Belgravia, central London.

Prosecutor Philip Shears QC had told the jury: ‘Those payments, we say, were corruptly made in order to win business for companies who hoped to trade with Alba.’

Hall was recruited to become CEO of Alba in February 2001 and took up the position five months later, before leaving in June 2005, jurors heard.

The Australian national had a long history of working in the smelting industry and has experience in the production of aluminium, jurors heard.

Mr Shears said Hall entered into what was a pre-existing conspiracy between Victor Dahdaleh and Sheikh Issa involving corrupt payments.

Dahdaleh was said to have been a major donor to the Labour Party, which is now disputed by officials.

He was once introduced by Lord Mandelson as ‘Victor, my friend’, and had a ‘warm relationship’ with Mr Blair while he was prime minister.

He insisted he had done nothing improper.

Dahdaleh, of Eaton Place, Belgravia, central London, denied conspiracy to corrupt, six counts of corruption and a further count of transferring criminal property.

A series of cases brought by the SFO have collapsed in recent years including the prosecution of property magnates Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz.

The SFO is now being sued for £300 million by the Tchenguiz brothers, whose offices were illegally raided in 2011.

Original report here




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