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Canadian billionaire allegedly identified in Panama Papers

Canadian billionaire Victor P. Dahdaleh waves as he leaves Southwark Crown Court after a plea and case management hearing in central London, January 13, 2012. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

He has rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful, donated millions of dollars to charitable causes and run an investment, manufacturing and trading group.

But now, Victor Dahdaleh, a 72-year-old Jordanian-born tycoon who grew up in both Toronto and Montreal, has been implicated by a joint investigation by CBC/Toronto Star into the Panama Papers.

The probe into offshore financial records alleges that Dahdaleh is the shadowy middleman described as “Consultant A” in U.S. court documents who handed out tens of millions of dollars in inducements to government officials in Bahrain for more than a decade on behalf of a unit of Alcoa Inc., the U.S.’s biggest aluminum producer, to win contracts to sell alumina to the Persian Gulf state’s processing plant.

In 2014, the unit pleaded guilty to foreign bribery charges from the U.S. Justice Department. Alcoa also agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that saw the company slapped with a fine of US$384 million – the fifth highest penalty ever.

Dahdaleh was never named or charged in the case, and denies any wrongdoing.

The CBC/Toronto Star investigation alleges that evidence in the Panama Papers “leave no doubt” Dahdaleh is “Consultant A.”

It outlines an email from Dahdaleh to a Panamaniam law firm Mossack Fonseca, as well as several other files, where he says he is the owner and director of Alumet, one of the offshore companies used to route the alumina.

In 2013, Dahdaleh was also acquitted on the charges of laundering money and making improper payments to officials in Bahrain as part of a trial in the United Kingdom, where he lives.

His lawyers argued that the payment made by Dahdaleh were sanctioned, comparing them to taxes, and were therefore legal.

The prosecution dropped its case because it said two U.S. lawyers who were set to testify had refused to take the stand, and testimony from the former CEO at the processing plant in Bahrain had shifted from earlier statements.

During the trial, a judge said he had breached his bail terms by meeting with a prosecution witness – the Crown alleged he was attempting to use intimidation tactics – and he was sent to jail for a month.

Dahdaleh also settled a billion-dollar U.S. civil lawsuit outside of court for an undisclosed amount from Bahrain’s state aluminum smelting-company Alba, which alleged conspiracy, corruption and fraud.

The Canadian-raised billionaire was also named as the person behind payoffs to Bahraini officials in a Norwegian case that saw a shipping company fined $5 million to win delivery agreements to move Alcoa alumina from Australia to the Persian Gulf country.  He was never charged.

Who is Dahdaleh?

Dahdaleh is the owner and chairman of Dadco, which is a privately owned investment, manufacturing and trading group that was founded in 1915 by his grandfather. 

According to his website, the company operates and has investments in Europe, North America, The Middle East, Africa and Australia.

A 2008 article from The Globe and Mail said that one of its holdings includes an alumina refinery in Stade, Germany that was acquired after purchasing a 50 per cent stake in the operation from Alcoa.

Dahdaleh has also made a name for himself through his charitable contributions and his presence in elite circles.

According to the CBC he personally arranged for former U.S. president Bill Clinton to receive an honorary degree from McGill University seven years ago and laid the doctoral sash on his shoulders and gave him a hug on stage during the ceremony.

His website says he is a board trustee of the Clinton Foundation. 

Dahdaleh is also a board member of McGill’s University Trust, which is the school’s U.K.-based fundraising arm, and has been a “significant financial supporter,” according to the CBC.

He has also been honoured by other Canadian universities.

Last December, York University announced the establishment of the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health after he donated $20 million, and named a building after him on its north Toronto campus.

That same month, St. Francis Xavier University presented him with an honorary doctorate.

The Globe and Mail article also cites sources that credit Dahdaleh with revitalizing the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce. As president between 2004 and 2009, he managed to persuade both Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair to speak to the chamber. 

Dahdaleh is also a board member of the International Aluminum Institute.

His website lists him as an honorary fellow at the London School of Economics, where he has been a governor for more than two decades and is a “leading donor."

Dahdaleh also has his own charity, the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Charitable Foundation – which provides scholarships to needy students at several universities. Additionally, it backs several other causes including, medical research, as well as economic and social development in poorer countries.

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