Billionaire donor and friend of Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson charged by SFO over £700million fraud
By Rebecca Camber
Last updated at 1:50 AM on 25th October 2011
A billionaire donor and friend of Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson was charged yesterday in connection with an alleged £700million bribery scandal.
Victor Dahdaleh, 68, is accused of offences relating to contracts for the supply of aluminium to Bahrain.
The Jordanian-born metals magnate has been close to Labour for years and has poured money into the Party’s causes. He was once introduced by Lord Mandelson as ‘Victor, my friend’, and enjoyed warm relations with Mr Blair when he was prime minister.
Warmth: Tony Blair shaking hands with Victor Dahdaleh at a lunch in 2006
Yesterday, the London-based businessman was arrested after attending Bishopsgate police station by appointment. He was charged with corruption, conspiracy to corrupt and acquiring and transferring criminal property between 2001 and 2005.
The businessman is accused of making payments to officials of Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba), a smelting company in Bahrain mainly owned by the royal rulers of the Gulf state.
The alleged bribes were in connection with contracts with a U.S. company, Alcoa Inc, for supplies of alumina shipped to Bahrain from Australia.
Further payments were also allegedly made in connection with contracts to supply goods and services to Alba.
The investigation by the Serious Fraud Office opened in July 2009 with assistance from the City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit.
Additionally, the SFO has been in liaison with the U.S. Department of Justice and with the Swiss authorities.
According to a court claim by Alba filed in the U.S., Mr Dahdaleh was the middle man for the alleged bribes – a claim he denies. Alba is seeking damages in excess of $1billion (£700million). The court documents accuse Alcoa, Mr Dahdaleh and others of a ‘massive, outrageous fraud’ involving ‘a conspiracy of illegal bribery and other criminal acts’.
The damages claim is on hold pending the criminal inquiry.
Although born in Jordan, Mr Dahdaleh was brought up in Canada and has Canadian citizenship. His fortune stems from the Dadco Group, a Guernsey-based private investment, manufacturing and trading group, founded by his grandfather, which he heads.
He spent four years at the helm of the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in London, where he hosted lunches with Mr Blair, Lord Mandelson and other Labour figures.
At one lunch in 2006, Mr Blair praised Mr Dahdaleh’s ‘kindness’ before posing for pictures shaking his hand. Referring to Mr Blair and Lord Mandelson, a friend of the tycoon boasted in 2008: ‘He can pick up the phone and talk to them if he wants to.’
Mr Dahdaleh is pictured on his website shaking hands with some of the world’s most influential men, including Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.
He made a £15,000 donation to the Institute for Public Policy Research, a Labour-aligned think-tank, and has paid an unknown amount to Policy Network, a political think tank headed by Lord Mandelson.
He was once lauded as ‘a business dynamo … and a big-hearted personality’ by Lord Mandelson, who has since denied they were close friends.
Yesterday Mr Dahdaleh was released on bail to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
A spokesman for his lawyers, Allen & Overy, said: ‘He will be vigorously contesting these charges at every stage, confident in clearing his good name.’