By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEMOCRATIC National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney yesterday called for the Royal Bahamas Police Force to investigate the $300,000 bribe allegedly paid to unnamed Bahamian official to secure a Bahamas Electricity Corporation deal by a foreign power company more than a decade ago.
Mr McCartney said Commissioner Ellison Greenslade “must intervene in this obviously criminal matter and bring the individuals at the centre of the allegations to justice”.
Mr McCartney also accused the government of being “content to overlook criminal activity when it occurs in the upper echelons of our society’. He said by now the government should have moved “to send a strong message to the people of this country that it is serious about addressing corruption at all levels”.
Mr McCartney’s comments come amidst the government’s investigation into French Power Company Alstom (formerly ABB) paying more than $300,000 to an unnamed 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, which The Tribune published in December.
Last month, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson remained tight-lipped about the progress of the investigation, and expressed concerns that further public comments could harm the future of the government’s probe into the matter.
Attempts by The Tribune to get an update from her on the matter were unsuccessful up to press time yesterday.
Yesterday, while also calling for police involvement in the investigation, Mr McCartney said Bahamians “across the country have yet to receive the answers that were promised by this Christie administration” regarding the probe.
“Even as our nation’s leaders pledge their commitment to addressing high levels of crime in the country, it appears that this government, like others before it, is content to overlook criminal activity when it occurs in the upper echelons of our society,” he said. “The government should have moved by now to send a strong message to the people of this country that it is serious about addressing corruption at all levels and further, that no man or woman, irrespective of their political connections or influence is beyond the reach of the law.”
He added: “The Democratic National Alliance repeats its call for that individual to be named and made to feel the full brunt of the law. The commissioner of police must intervene in this obviously criminal matter and bring the individuals at the centre of the allegations to justice.”
Last year, Tribune Business reported that, Alstom, as part of a $772 million plea bargain settlement with the US Justice Department, admitted that it had bribed an unnamed Bahamian “official” to ensure it won the bid to supply BEC with a slow speed diesel generation unit in 2001.
The alleged bribe was made between 1999 and 2001, during the time of the former Ingraham administration.
The official, called “Official 8”, was said to have been paid more than $300,000 to help secure the contract.
Alstom pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $772,290,000 fine to resolve the 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.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson has previously said that the Attorney General’s Office requested information from the US government regarding the bribery allegations. She also reiterated that the government was taking the matter “very seriously”.
“There will only be comments on this very important matter as and when appropriate,” she said last month. “It is inappropriate at this stage of the proceedings to make any comment. It might jeopardise the future of the proceedings.
“I can assure the public that as and when appropriate, comments will be made and I reassure the public that this matter is being taken very seriously.”
Meanwhile, former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson, who had ministerial oversight of BEC at the time of the allegations, has expressed his “difficulty” with the situation to The Tribune.
He has maintained that he did not know of any controversy surrounding the purchase of the generator, or the events that allegedly took place.