FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday urged the attorney general to move forward with criminal charges against the Bahamian official named in a US plea deal who allegedly received bribes to secure contracts with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation.
Dr Minnis said there was no need to further delay the process given that the United States government had already completed all the footwork necessary to bring a charge against the official who was identified in court documents as a BEC board member.
His comments follow a statement released by Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson last week, which confirmed that a local police investigation was ongoing in the matter and her office had the name of the person in question.
When contacted yesterday, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the investigation had not yet been completed and no further details could be given at this time.
“At this stage they have the name, individuals have already been indicted (in the United States), all they need to do is proceed, press charges and carry on,” Dr Minnis said. “If we’re talking about a new Bahamas and transparency, honesty, integrity, then proceed, press charges and proceed. Don’t try to delay (the process).”
Last week, Mrs Maynard-Gibson confirmed that American officials have given her the name of the alleged bribe taker and other information pertinent to the case. She added that local police were working in concert with officials on the matter.
However, she indicated that further groundwork was needed.
“The fact that United States legal officials have supplied information to the Bahamas on the BEC matter, including naming a person alleged in the United States’ proceedings to have received a bribe, does not automatically mean that a matter is ready for prosecution in this jurisdiction,” her statement said.
“The United States’ investigation of Alstom took many years, ultimately leading to charges and a plea arrangement in the United States. Every effort continues to be made to ensure that the investigation and any potential prosecution in the Bahamas are not compromised.”
The bribery claims were unearthed in a $720m plea agreement between French energy company Alstom and the US Justice Department. The plea agreement makes it clear that a Bahamian government official, in cooperation with a consultant identified as a US resident, used bribes to “obtain or retain business in connection with the power project.”
The claims said that the French company paid more than $300,000 to the government official to secure the purchase of a slow diesel generator for the electricity company in 2000, when the Free National Movement was in control of the government.
Last December, 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 revealed that the French company hid payments to Bahamian officials, routing them through an American consultant who was a “close personal friend” of one person able to “influence” the awarding of BEC contracts.
However, none of those involved in the scheme is named in court documents.
The alleged bribery took place between 1999 and 2003.
Former BEC Chairman J Barrie Farrington has since called for “the chips to fall where they may” in any investigation into the claims.
Mr Farrington, who held the chairmanship at time the alleged bribes were paid, pledged that he would not relent in seeking to unmask the alleged bribe taker, and urged the government to appoint a “non-partisan commission” to investigate the bribery claim.