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Money laundering Court turns down Bahrain ex-minister’s appeal

Aluminium Bahrain's former chairman and ex-oil minister is under investigation in Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona rejected an appeal on Tuesday by a Bahraini former oil minister suspected of money laundering in a corruption case which has spanned several countries. A freeze on $2 million (CHF1.95 million) held in Swiss banks was extended.

The case, still under investigation by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, involved money originating from bribes made by the US aluminium giant Alcoa to Bahraini authorities in charge of the country’s firm Aluminium Bahrain (Alba).

In January last year, Alcoa pleaded guilty in the United States to having paid millions of dollars to officials in the Gulf emirate through an intermediary in London. The company agreed at the time to pay $384 million in fines.

The Swiss federal criminal court stated that the Bahraini ex-minister’s involvement in the case’s corruption had been “clearly established”. The minister and then chairman of Alba, who is also a member of the emirate’s royal family, has been the focus of investigations carried out since 2011 by the federal prosecutor’s office.

The Federal Criminal Court said the former minister had received 43 payments worth $24 million into four bank accounts, including two in Switzerland.

Middleman’s Lausanne link

Documents in the US case charged that Alcoa had illicitly secured a long-term agreement to supply alumina – a material used to produce aluminium – to Alba, using shell companies owned by a London-based businessman. Some $110 million in bribes had been paid to Bahraini authorities, according to the charges.

An earlier criminal trial in Britain against the middleman involved in the transactions collapsed when the judge instructed the jury to return a non-guilty verdict, after witnesses refused to give evidence.

In Switzerland, the case against the Anglo-Canadian businessman, whose operations are based in Lausanne, benefited from a partial closure in April when money-laundering charges against him were dropped.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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