Attorneys for Alcoa argued today that a lawsuit by a Bahraini company claiming that bribes secured lucrative contracts for aluminum should be thrown out of U.S. District Court because all of the alleged acts occurred overseas.
Aluminum Bahrain BSC, called Alba, is pursuing a four-year-old lawsuit alleging that Alcoa, through middlemen, paid bribes to Alba's top officials so they would agree to pay inflated prices for alumina. Alcoa has countered that if any bribes were paid, they went to people in Bahrain, came from foreign businessmen not under Alcoa's control, and related to sales of alumina from Alcoa of Australia, which is a separate company.
"It is quite markedly a story about foreign participants engaged in foreign events," said Evan R. Chesler, an attorney representing Alcoa, before Judge Donetta W. Ambrose.
"Absolutely, there are incidental touches to the United States," he said, but they aren't substantial enough to support a case under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute.
Alba's lawyers countered that faxes and letters from Alcoa's Isabella Street offices cemented the role of the middlemen, whose bribes to Alba's former top officials totaled $11.6 million.
The key middleman, Victor Dahdaleh, who faces corruption charges in the United Kingdom, where he resides, was "embraced by Alcoa, and he belongs to them," attorney Mark J. MacDougall, representing Alba, said.
To dismiss the case would be to give court approval to American firms "to use shell companies, to use middlemen, to use deception" in overseas dealings, he said.
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also investigating the aluminum deals under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Mr. MacDougall argued that the fact that "the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is deeply involved in the investigation" suggests that it has domestic content.
Judge Ambrose is expected to rule on motions to dismiss filed by Alcoa, Mr. Dahdaleh and co-defendant William Rice, an Alcoa employee.