By Mark Hosenball
LONDON (Reuters) - Victor P. Dahdaleh, who was charged with bribery by British authorities on Monday, has no shortage of powerful connections. The international businessman counts former President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as friends and beneficiaries of his generosity.
Peter Mandelson, who was EU commissioner for foreign trade, introduced Dahdaleh in a 2006 speech to the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce as "Victor my friend" and described him as "a business dynamo, a public-spirited figure and a big-hearted personality all rolled into one."
Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) allege Dahdaleh was also corrupt. They have charged him with paying bribes to officials of Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C., a smelting company whose majority owner is the Bahrain government.
The SFO said the payments, made between 2001 and 2005, were connected to contracts that the American aluminum giant, Alcoa, Inc., made for supplies of alumina shipped to Bahrain from Australia.
Dahdaleh, who lives in London and holds dual British and Canadian citizenship, denies the charges. He was released on bail pending a court hearing scheduled for October 30. British authorities said that during the course of their investigation, they had been in contact with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been conducting a parallel inquiry.
The prestigious London School of Economics, where Dahdaleh has been a governor and major financial backer, told Reuters that as a consequence of the criminal case, it was reconsidering his position as a governor.
Dahdaleh has been an active financial and political supporter in recent years of former U.S. President Bill Clinton's international charity activities and of former British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mandelson, a former European Commissioner and senior aide to Blair who is now a member of Britain's House of Lords.
In a biography posted on his website www.victordahdaleh.com, Dahdaleh describes himself as a "board trustee" of the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation.
The website of the Clinton Foundation lists Victor P. Dahdaleh and the Victor Philip Dahdaleh Charitable Foundation as contributors of between $1 million and $5 million in 2010.
According to a cached page recovered from the website of the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce, in December 2005 Clinton gave a speech at a reception held by the group at London's Jumeirah Carlton Towers Hotel. Dahdaleh is described in the posting as the Chamber's President.
The Chamber's London office said on Monday that the group had no comment on Dahdaleh's arrest or his current relationship with the Chamber.
In October 2009, Clinton appeared at a "leadership summit" sponsored by Montreal's McGill University where he accepted an honorary doctorate. The McGill Daily, a university newspaper, reported that Clinton had been invited to the summit by Dahdaleh, a McGill alumnus, who the newspaper described as a "very close ally" of Clinton.
A spokesman for Clinton and his foundation had no immediate comment on Dahdaleh's arrest or Clinton's relationship with Dahdaleh. The U.S. State Department did not comment on whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ever met Dahdaleh.
In Britain, Dahdaleh was a major backer of groups and individuals connected to the Labour Party, which under Prime Ministers Blair and then Gordon Brown, held power between 1997 and 2010.
In October, 2006, Prime Minister Blair was the featured speaker at a lunch celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Canada-UK Chamber. A pamphlet memorializing the event, posted on the Chamber's website, features 15 photographs in which Blair and Dahdaleh both appear. Blair's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for Mandelson said: "Lord Mandelson has always expressed his gratitude to Mr Dahdaleh for supporting" a think tank Mandelson helped to found (called Policy Network). But the spokesman added: "It would be an exaggeration to describe them as friends."
On his website, Dahdaleh has appeared particularly keen to promote his support for the London School of Economics (LSE), where a spokesperson confirmed that Dahdaleh has until now been a governor, honorary fellow and former student.
Last May, Jordan-born Dahdaleh announced that his foundation was working with an LSE project on global governance and with Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office on a project to provide scholarships for Palestinian students wishing to study global politics in Britain.
A press release announcing the scholarship program was taken down from Dadahleh's personal website within 24 hours of the announcement of his arrest.
The LSE spokesperson sought to put distance between the school and Dahdaleh, saying: "Mr Dahdaleh is no longer on LSE's Development Committee (formerly the Fundraising Campaign Committee) or on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Global Governance as this center has now closed.
"In light of the escalating and serious allegations against Victor Dahdaleh and his arrest today by the SFO, LSE is considering his position as a governor of LSE," the school representative added.
The Foreign Office had no immediate comment.
On his website, Dahdaleh posted an announcement saying he had "interrupted his busy scheduled business commitments to voluntarily attend an appointment" at a London police station, where he expected to face bribery charges. The statement quoted a spokesman for his law firm, Allen & Overy, saying that Dahdaleh "believes the investigation into his affairs was flawed and that he has done absolutely nothing wrong."
Dahdaleh, the statement said, "will be vigorously contesting these charges at every stage, confident in clearing his good name."
(Created by Simon Robinson)