Did Alcoa’s former super-agent Victor Dahdaleh, left, engineer his own arrest in London last week to avoid indictment and prosecution in the United States?
We don’t know the answer. But there are plenty of reasons why the sixty-three old billionaire might have done that. Here are some:
• A U.K. arrest on corruption and proceeds-of-crimes charges would probably prevent an indictment in the U.S. for FCPA and money-laundering offenses. The DOJ isn’t likely to chase a suspect who’s already in the dock in London.
• The U.K. probably wouldn’t extradite anyone to the U.S. who’s already being prosecuted on similar charges in the U.K.. That’s more true for a U.K. citizen like Dahdaleh, who also has a Canadian passport.
• Bail for a U.K. citizen would be easier to arrange in London than in the U.S., where flight-risk concerns would dominate. In fact, last week Dahdaleh was granted ‘police bail.’ At the latest hearing, his bail was set at £10 million and he surrendered his U.K. and Canadian passports.
• Any one-percenter these days is under suspicion from the start. So a foreign billionaire like Dahdaleh would be wise to do whatever he can to avoid a federal jury trial in the United States.
• Dahdaleh’s a big shot in the U.K. He’s a governor at the London School of Economics and, according to his website, ‘a leading donor to the school’ and a member of its fundraising committee. He also supports cancer research at Imperial College, London, and is a fellow of the Duke of Edinburgh Award World Fellowship. Social standing and political juice in your home court may not win cases but it usually doesn’t hurt.
• Dahdaleh’s alleged bribery scheme, according to the Serious Fraud Office, stretched from 2001 to 2005. So prosecutors apparently have evidence of a series of allegedly illegal payments. In the U.S., multiple payments can result in stacked charges. Every FCPA conspiracy and substantive count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, and jail time for money-laundering offenses can be twenty years. Sure, Dahdaleh could receive jail time in a U.K. prosecution, but not a U.S. style white-collar mega-sentence.
• A multi-year bribery scheme, as Dahdaleh would know, was behind the U.S. indictment of Jeffrey Tesler — another U.K. citizen who, like Dahdaleh, was an agent for a U.S.-based company. Tesler was charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and ten substantive FCPA offenses. He faced up to fifty-five years in prison. After losing his extradition battle in London, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston. He hasn’t learned his final jail sentence yet.
• The federal forfeiture law reaches any assets derived from proceeds traceable to a violation of the FCPA, or a conspiracy to violate the FCPA. As part of his plea, Tesler had to forfeit $149 million to the DOJ. If there’s evidence that Dahdaleh engaged in a five or even fifteen-year corruption scheme — as claimed by the alleged victim, Aluminium Bahrain BSC — then his forfeiture risk could be even bigger than Tesler’s. Virtually all of Dahdaleh’s assets — apparently worth billions — could be at risk.
Victor Dahdaleh himself said he ‘voluntarily attend[ed] an appointment at Bishopsgate police station [in] accordance with agreed arrangements … to face charges of bribery and offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.’
That means he wasn’t surprised last Monday by his arrest in London. Does it also mean he weighed his options before deciding to face the music in the U.K. instead of the U.S.?