Alstom Executives Say Bribery Probe Search Warrants Aren’t Valid

Executives at Alstom SA’s U.K. unit said investigators didn’t have enough evidence to search their homes as part of a probe into claims the company paid 81 million pounds ($132 million) in bribes.

A lawyer for Stephen Burgin, president of the French transport company’s unit, and Robert Purcell, its finance director, told a London court today they should be allowed to argue the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office didn’t have enough reason to suspect them.

“There is absolutely no evidence of these men being involved in any substantial payments,” said Clare Montgomery, their lawyer. The men joined Alstom in 2008 and 2009 “well after” the allegations took place.

Burgin and Purcell won a partial ruling last year allowing them to argue police didn’t have good reason to arrest them as part of a bribery, money laundering and false accounting probe. They are seeking court approval to also challenge the SFO’s role in the case. 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 Alstom Network acted as “a conduit” to pass money through and that the payments were “ongoing.”

The unit was paying “nine times as much commission in the Middle East and Africa compared to Europe, and eight times for Asia,” Eadie said. “That’s as good of an inference as one could muster.”

Alstom has denied the allegations. No further hearings in the matter were scheduled.

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).

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