Bahamas government committed to bribery investigation, says PM
Prime Minister Perry Christie said the claim that a Bahamian official accepted over $300,000 in bribes from a French company is a “very serious matter” and promised that the government would deal with it accordingly.
Christie told The Guardian recently he expects to have answers soon.
The government has sought information from US authorities after the allegation surfaced that an official from Alstom paid bribes totaling $325,000 to a Bahamian official to swing Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) contracts to Alstom between 1999 and 2003.
The details of the alleged bribes were revealed after Alstom struck a plea bargain with the US Department of Justice after it sued the French company for breach of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
As part of the plea agreement, the company paid a fine of nearly $780 million and also detailed its corrupt practices.
“The attorney general of The Bahamas Allyson Maynard Gibson is engaged with that,” Christie said when asked about the matter.
“Discussions are taking place. The information is being made available. So the matter will be investigated.
“It is a serious matter and the Bahamian people will be informed of the results of that. It is ongoing. It is moving very rapidly… We have to deal with it.”
Maynard-Gibson previously said The Bahamas has requested information from the United States regarding the allegations, including the identity of the alleged bribe taker.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, said the allegations are “outrageous”.
He also pledged that the government would continue to probe the matter.
“We will get to the bottom of it,” he said. “And we need to identify who that person is and wrought them out.”
Asked what repercussion the alleged bribe taker could face, Davis said, “The law will take its course.”
Former deputy prime minister Frank Watson was the minister at the time responsible for BEC.
He said the decision to award the contract to Alstom was a Cabinet decision that involved no bribery.
Watson insisted he was unaware of any claims that a bribe had been paid with respect to the award of that particular contract.
One of the alleged corrupt practices outlined by Alstom was the retaining of consultants in various jurisdictions — including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, as well as The Bahamas — whose true function was to pay bribes to government officials in order to swing lucrative government contracts Alstom’s way.
According to the plea agreement, Alstom “disguised in its books and records payments to Bahamian officials to obtain or retain business in connection with the power projects for Alstom and its subsidiaries”.
The agreement said that in connection with the bidding on power projects, Alstom retained “Consultant I” who, as certain Alstom employees knew, was a close personal friend of “Official 8”, a board member of BEC.
The names of Consultant I and Official 8 were omitted from the recorded agreement.
“Consultant I’s primary purpose was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries, but was instead to pay bribes to Official 8, who had the ability to influence the award of the power contracts,” the agreement said.
“Consultant I was a US citizen, was based in the United States and maintained a bank account in the United States.”
The agreement said that around 1999 to 2004 Alstom and several subsidiaries began bidding on BEC power projects.
When they were successful, Alstom allegedly made payments to Consultant I for the purpose of paying Official 8 in exchange for his assistance in awarding the projects to Alstom and its subsidiaries.
Last week, opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis pledged bipartisan support for the government’s effort to find the alleged bribe taker.
“The opposition is just as anxious to know and to resolve this matter as the Bahamian public,” he said.