By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday said officials would provide the public with an update on a BEC bribe allegation “within the appropriate time”, but refused to comment further.
Last month, Tribune Business revealed that French energy company Alstom (formerly ABB) paid more than $300,000 to a government official to secure the purchase of a slow diesel generator for the electricity company nearly 15 years ago.
The bribery claims were unearthed in a $722m plea agreement between Alstom and the United States Justice Department on the matter.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson has previously said her office has requested information from the US government regarding the bribery allegations.
When contacted yesterday, however, Mrs Maynard-Gibson declined to comment further on the investigation, but said an update would be provided “within the appropriate time”.
However, former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson, who had ministerial oversight of the electricity corporation at the time of the allegations, yesterday expressed his “difficulty” with the situation.
Mr Watson has maintained that he was unaware of any controversy surrounding the purchase of the generator, or the events that allegedly took place between 1999 and 2001.
“I cannot envision who they’re talking about (that) would have done that,” he told The Tribune. “It does not strike me as anybody there that I know would have been engaged with that.”
Last month, Alstom 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.
It was claimed that Alstom falsified records, ultimately paying millions in bribes for help in obtaining more than $4 billion in projects, including the Bahamas.
It was said that a Bahamian official was paid more than $300,000 to help secure a BEC contract for Alstom.
The bribe was made between 1999 and 2001, during the time of the former Ingraham administration.
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”.
Mr Watson has maintained that he was unaware of any controversy while in office, and noted that he had no reason to distrust any member of BEC’s board.
However, while calling for a probe by the government into the matter last month, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said he was surprised by Mr Watson’s comments, claiming that he first raised concerns over the issue while serving as minister of public works in 2003.
Mr Roberts also argued that as Mr Watson was both a parliamentarian and senior cabinet minister, he should have had some knowledge of the matter.
Last month, former BEC Chairman J Barrie Farrington called on the government to appoint a non-partisan commission to reveal the “traitor” that has stained the country’s reputation.
Outraged over the bribery claims, Mr Farrington said the matter should be “pursued relentlessly”.