Bahamas police probing power company bribe claim

Nassau, Bahamas — Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson confirmed on Wednesday night that US authorities have provided her with the name of the Bahamian who allegedly received a bribe from a French company over a decade ago to help that company secure lucrative Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) contracts.
However, Maynard-Gibson indicated that the name will not automatically be made public, as local law enforcement officials are conducting their own probe into the allegation that this Bahamian official was paid $325,000 to help Alstom SA secure contracts.

She also confirmed that she has received other information from the US authorities on this matter.

These details emerge more than five months after Alstom agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects. It was a part of a US plea arrangement.

“The Office of the Attorney General and the Royal Bahamas Police Force continue to work closely together, and with the assistance of the relevant United States of America authorities, to thoroughly conduct an investigation to determine whether an offense has been committed in The Bahamas,” she said.

“The fact is that matters such as the current one raise complex issues of fact and law, including cross-jurisdictional issues, which require careful investigation to determine whether the evidence gathered locally can sustain a prosecution.

“The fact that United States legal officials have supplied information to The Bahamas on the BEC matter, including naming a person alleged in the United States’ proceedings to have received a bribe, does not automatically mean that a matter is ready for prosecution in this jurisdiction.

“The United States’ investigation of Alstom took many years, ultimately leading to charges and a plea arrangement in the United States.

“Every effort continues to be made to ensure that the investigation and any potential prosecution in The Bahamas are not compromised.”

The attorney general was responding to The Nassau Guardian’s editorial of May 28, 2015, under the headline, “The attorney general seems timid in BEC bribery probe.”

In her statement to The Nassau Guardian, Maynard-Gibson noted that an assertion was made in the editorial that she and her office are disinterested in and/or are not taking sufficient steps to progress the investigation into the BEC matter.

“These allegations are clearly unfounded,” she said, referring to the editorial’s suggestion that the Office of the Attorney General may not be interested in probing the matter.

“This matter has received the appropriate attention and priority that it merits not only from the [Office of the Attorney General], but from the other law enforcement officials and authorities who have a role to play in its investigation.

“The Office of the Attorney General and the relevant law enforcement officials take very seriously the allegation that an official from Alstom paid bribes to a Bahamian official to influence the Bahamas Electricity Corporation to award contract(s) to Alstom.”

The US said Alstom falsified its records and paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes for help in obtaining more than $4 billion in projects in countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.

US court papers do not name the official who was allegedly paid $325,000 to help Alstom secure contracts at BEC. The official is identified only as a BEC board member. The bribery took place between 1999 and 2003, according to the U.S.

Then members of the BEC board have denied involvement in the scheme.

The Guardian’s editorial said, “Since the fine and guilty plea were announced, people have been charged in various countries with participation in corruption with Alstom.

“…But here in The Bahamas, nothing. The attorney general, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, says they are looking into it. She would not say if she has received the file from the Americans with the evidence of the bribery in The Bahamas. All we ever hear from the AG is ‘soon’ on the matter.

“We get the impression that the Office of the Attorney General simply hopes we lose focus on the issue so it can do nothing and simply let the matter go away.”

The attorney general’s statement last night did not give a timeframe for when local officials will likely conclude their investigation.

When contacted about the alleged bribery in January, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the matter, which reportedly occurred under his tenure as prime minister, should be turned over to the police.

“That is what we did when bribes were paid to BEC board members before we came to office,” Ingraham told The Guardian.

Former BEC Chairman J. Barrie Farrington also called on the government to relentlessly pursue the matter.

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