THE SERIOUS Fraud Office (SFO) suffered a major embarrassment yesterday when it was forced to drop an anti-corruption case after one witness changed his evidence and two others refused to attend trial in the UK.
The SFO had earlier gone to court against Victor Dahdaleh, an international businessman and donor to the Labour Party, accusing him with corruption offences relating to contracts for the supply of aluminium to Bahrain.
Dahdaleh was accused of paying more than £35m in bribes to former managers at Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), the fourth-largest aluminium smelter in the world, in return for contracts worth more than £2bn.
The SFO said there were two principal issues leading to its withdrawal of the case.
Firstly, it said that Bruce Hall, one of the witnesses who had already pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and had given evidence for the prosecution, had changed his account markedly from an earlier statement he had given the SFO.
Then two key witnesses from the US said they were unwilling to attend the trial and face cross examination.
That impacted on the fairness of the trial as well as the prospects of a conviction, the under pressure law enforcement agency said last night.