US: Alcoa lawsuit halted so federal criminal probe can continue

Publisher Name: 
International Herald Tribune
PITTSBURGH: A civil lawsuit accusing Alcoa Inc. and affiliates of
bribing officials in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain will be
temporarily halted so that U.S. investigators can conduct a criminal
investigation of the aluminum maker.





U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose on Thursday granted a request
by the Justice Department to halt the lawsuit that accuses the
Pittsburgh-based company of bribing the officials through secretive
shell companies in Asia and Europe.





The allegations "could be relevant to the government's criminal
investigation and a potential criminal trial," federal
prosecutors said in court documents filed last week.





Aluminum Bahrain BSC, also known as Alba and controlled by the Bahrain
government, is seeking more than $1 billion (¤630 million) in
damages, according to the lawsuit filed last month in
Pittsburgh.


Alba, which operates
one of the world's largest aluminum smelters, and Alcoa had agreed to
the Justice Department's request to put the civil case on
hold.


"Alba is certainly pleased that the criminal investigation will
not be disrupted by the civil discovery. But we look forward to
proceeding in the U.S. District Court as soon as the criminal case is
completed," Alba spokesman Seth Levin said in an e-mail.





Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery has said the company will cooperate with
investigators. He also said a review done by Alcoa found no wrongdoing
and the company planned to vigorously defend the lawsuit.





A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Friday.





Alba has been an Alcoa customer for about three decades and buys most
of its alumina - a material used to make aluminum - from the
company.





Alba's lawsuit alleges Alcoa and its affiliates violated mail and wire
fraud statutes and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, among other
laws.


Alcoa, the world's
third-largest aluminum producer, reported revenue in 2007 of $30.75
billion, an all-time record.
AMP Section Name:Natural Resources
  • 183 Environment
  • 185 Corruption