Bloomberg News

Alstom Executives Lose Bid to Challenge U.K. Search Warrants

July 13, 2011

(Updates with Alstom comment in sixth paragraph.)

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Executives at Alstom SA’s U.K. unit lost their bid to challenge fraud prosecutors over their arrest and searches of their homes as part of a probe into claims the company paid 81 million pounds ($129 million) in bribes.

Stephen Burgin, president of the French company’s U.K. unit, and Robert Purcell, its finance director, can’t argue that the Serious Fraud Office didn’t have enough reason to suspect them of a crime, a London court ruled. The judgment means prosecutors can use evidence seized at the executives’ homes last year.

“The challenge to the validity of the arrest warrants is not reasonably arguable,” the court said.

Prosecutors suspect that from 2004 to 2010 Alstom, through its Alstom Network U.K. Ltd. unit, gave money to companies that acted as “bogus consultants” to bribe overseas officials for contracts, according to court papers. A lawyer for the SFO, James Eadie, said at a hearing in April that Alstom Network acted as “a conduit” to pass money through, and paid “nine times as much commission in the Middle East and Africa compared to Europe, and eight times for Asia.”

Alstom said in a statement that the allegations being investigated are seven years old and haven’t resulted in any decision against the company by any court. It said neither the judge who issued the search warrants, or the court ruling today, reviewed the SFO’s underlying claims.

“The company continues to stand by its managers,’’ Alstom said in the statement. “It has never wavered in its support and has no reason to believe that they will not be fully vindicated during the course of the on-going investigation.’’

Burgin and Purcell’s lawyer, Shaul Brazil, declined to comment.

The cases are: Burgin v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, case no. 10/6227; and Burgin v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office, case no. 10/5723, High Court of Justice, Administrative Court (London).

--Editor: Anthony Aarons

To contact the reporter for this story: Lindsay Fortado in London at lfortado@bloomberg.net. Ben Moshinsky in London at bmoshinsky@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.


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