Call for probe into BEC bribe

Bradley Roberts

Bradley Roberts


Tribune Chief Reporter


PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday called on the government to launch an official investigation into claims that a French energy company paid more than $300,000 to a government official to secure a Bahamas Electricity Corporation contract.

Mr Roberts said he was surprised by comments from former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson, who told Tribune Business on Monday that he was unaware of any controversy surrounding the purchase of a slow diesel generator in 2000, or the events that allegedly took place between 1999 and 2001 when he had ministerial oversight of the electricity corporation.

Yesterday, Mr Watson maintained that he was unaware of the alleged events at that time and welcomed an investigation. Mr Watson added that it was up to the present government to perform due diligence.

The bribery claims were unearthed in a $722m plea agreement between the French energy company Alstom (formerly ABB) and the US Justice Department.

However, the PLP chairman said he first raised concerns over the contract for a diesel generator awarded to Alstom (formerly ABB) in parliament in 2003 when he was Minister of Public Works.

Mr Roberts said: “I am of the view that the government of the Bahamas should cause an investigation to be launched into the Alstom (former ABB) deal. The governments of the Bahamas and the US have in place information exchange agreements so the Attorney General can access the relevant facts and identities of the persons involved under the terms and conditions of this exchange agreement.”

According to court documents obtained by Tribune Business, the Alstom plea bargain reveals how the French energy company hid payments to Bahamian officials, routing them through an unidentified American consultant, who was “a close personal friend” of one person able to “influence” the awarding of BEC contracts. None of those involved in the scheme are named in the court documents, which refer to the Bahamian bribe-taker as “Official 8” and the consultant as “Consultant I”.

In his 2003 address to parliament, Mr Roberts disclosed that the then-BEC Board, chaired by J Barrie Farrington, had recommended that the contract to supply slow speed diesel generator DA 12 be given to the South Korean firm Hanjung. However, Mr Roberts explained that the unanimous verdict in favour of Hanjung was overturned by the then-Ingraham Cabinet, and the contract awarded to ABB/Alstom.

Mr Watson said yesterday: “(Government) should do their investigation because if it is felt or reported that someone received bribes for doing this service, all we know is that someone complained that they paid someone in the Bahamas. There has to be more details before we can do any investigation.

“I don’t remember being made aware of any of this. Bradley (Roberts) said many things in the House of Assembly that (were incorrect), so I don’t know what he’s talking about. I have no reason to distrust any member of the board at that time.”

On Monday, Alstom, a French power and transportation company, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $772,290,000 fine to resolve charges related to a widespread scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes in countries around the world, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Bahamas.

Mr Roberts said: “There was commentary on this matter in parliament and the serious nature of the allegations had to necessitate discussions at the Cabinet level. Frank Watson was both a parliamentarian and a senior Cabinet minister so his denials are extremely surprising to me. Further, the events detailed by court documents took place between 1999 and 2001 when the first Ingraham administration was in its second term.

He said: “Of particular interest is the fact that the board selected South Korea’s Hanjung unanimously and the FNM Cabinet overturned this decision in favour of Alstom. It would be very interesting to know what additional and compelling information the Ingraham Cabinet had in its possession that would have driven them to overturn a unanimous board decision. As the head of the Cabinet between 1999 and 2001, I am very interested in what Hubert Ingraham knows about this contract debacle.”

Yesterday, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham declined to comment on the matter.

Long Island MP and former BEC board member, Loretta Butler-Turner, pledged to get to the bottom of the allegations. Mrs Butler-Turner said she needed to get all the facts before she commented on the claims.


ThisIsOurs 8 years, 9 months ago

Why stop at BEC. Let's look at Ministry of Labour, Social Services, Housing, Tourism, Education, Finance, Sports, of course Works AND the millions given to UR for band equipment(???). ALL of these ministries are loosely managed, have entertained countless consultants for the past 20 years, all ripe for bribes and contract rigging let's open the books on all of them to see who is teifin' , FNM and PLP. Let's see the number of millionaires created in the past twenty years in a population of only 300,000. How many Annie's have held the title of MP?


Well_mudda_take_sic 8 years, 9 months ago

J. Barrie Farrington is a well known Uncle Tom who has spent his entire career in the hotel industry shafting the Bahamian people, much like Ed Fields and Robert "Sandy" Sands. His outrage over the recently disclosed bribery incident should have been exceeded by his outrage many years ago when the decision of the BEC Board that he chaired was over ridden by Frank Watson. But Barrie Farrington was only too content back then to remain silent, even though he must have known full well that money was changing hands at a "higher level" to over ride the decision of the BEC Board he chaired. To put it politely, Barrie has only himself to blame for the "silent" duplicitous role that he has ended up playing in the BEC bribery incident more than a decade ago that has since cost all Bahamians undue hardship in the exorbitant levels of their light bills received from BEC. Farrington should hang his head in shame and should himself be subject to a full blown investigation for not having spoken up at the time the decision of the BEC Board that he chaired was over ridden. QED!


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