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Hold Bahraini Royal Family Member Accountable In The Alba Corruption Case

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On July 22, 2014, a UK court announced decision to jail Bruce Hall, former CEO of Aluminum Bahrain's (Alba), the world's fourth-largest aluminum smelter, for conspiracy to corrupt, in relation to contracts for the supply of goods and services to Alba[1]. In contrast, Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family and, at the time, Bahrain's minister of Industry and Alba's chairman, who was named co-conspirator, and who’s acts of bribery were recognized by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has faced no consequences in Bahrain.

The SFO has investigated and stated that Hall was engaged in a series of corrupt payments between 2002 and 2005, including 10,000 Bahraini Dinars from Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa who had paid Hall the money in return for Hall's agreement to allow the corrupt arrangements that Sheikh Isa had been involved in before Hall were to continue as CEO[2].

In this same conspiracy, Sheikh Isa was involved in a series of bribes with billionaire Victor Dahdaleh and former agent of American aluminum company Alcoa. In 2013, Dahdaleh admitted paying the then-Chairman of Alba, Sheikh Isa, USD 67 million dollars between 1998 and 2006 in exchange for a reduction in supply of contracts for companies including Alcoa, which were worth over USD 3 billion dollars. His defense said that the payments were part of Bahraini "custom and practice" and were approved by the Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, another royal family member. Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa is also the son-in-law of Khalifa bin Salman AlKhalifa. Letters which show approval of Sheikh Khalifa on key business decisions were presented to the court.[3] Additionally, Jawad Salem Al-Arrayed, one of the five deputy prime ministers in Bahrain wrote a letter which confirmed that the authorities had known and approved of the payments made to the member of Bahrain’s royal family.[4]

Along with the 16-month jail sentence, Hall is ordered to either repay a confiscation order of USD 5.1 million to Alba within 7-10 days or to serve a 10- year sentence in prison.
Due to the non extradition treaty that exists between UK and Britain, SFO had no way for co-conspirator Sheikh Isa to take part in the trial.

The corruption case came into light since 2008, when result of a Kroll investigation provided to the Bahraini government revealed names of several accused in corruption on top of them Shaikh Isa Bin Ali AlKhalifa. However no serious investigation was established to hold the accused accountable in front of independent and transparent courts. And although high officials from Bahrain have testified in the UK court during the trial of Hall, and despite calls by opposition groups to hold a serious domestic investigation inside Bahrain into the loss of the $3 billon dollars, which were also losses of the “public purse” of Bahrain, no such investigation has started yet. Actually, even the name of Sheikh Isa was omitted from the Reuters reports on the case that were re-published in the Bahrain local newspaper.[5]

Sheikh Isa is now Chairman of Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. (GPIC), a group jointly owned by Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and a consultant to the Bahrain Prime Minister for industrial and petroleum affairs.

It should be noted that Bahrain system of injustice has been punishing low profile people for the crimes, such as the case of an Asian worker who has spent 3 week in prison and was eventually fined 1 Bahraini dinar for “picking and eating 3 pieces of jujube that has fallen in the street.”[6] As well as chasing minor suspects of corruption, at the same time senior officials enjoy impunity.[7]

Nabeel Rajab, President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights said that "the lack of serious investigation in the involvement of royal family member in such a huge corruption case despite the fact the case has become international after the UK trial, and despite the testimonies and evidences shared at court and across international media is another proof of the persistence on systematic impunity for high officials of the state and the lack of independent judicial system in Bahrain that can bring accused to justice despite their level."

Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdon, United States, and other close allies of the Bahrain government to:

  • Hold Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa accountable for grand-scale bribery and conspiracy to corrupt in the Alba high-profile corruption case.
  • Run an independent, domestic serious and transparent trial in Bahrain to investigate the corruption case, which resulted in $3 billion dollars’ worth of losses to the public money pool.
  • The principle that all individuals are equal before the law should be respected and promoted, as was stated in the first paragraph of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that states, ‘All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals..’
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