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UK fraud prosecutor launches review after Dahdaleh case collapses

Canadian billionaire Victor P. Dahdaleh waves as he leaves Southwark Crown Court after a plea and case management hearing in central London,
Canadian billionaire Victor P. Dahdaleh waves as he leaves Southwark Crown Court after a plea and case management hearing in central London,

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's leading fraud prosecutor said on Wednesday it would launch a full review of the circumstances that led to the collapse of the high-profile corruption trial of British Canadian businessman Victor Dahdaleh.

"As with all our casework, the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) will undertake a full review of the circumstances of this case with a view to learning any lessons that can be applied to future cases," the agency said in an emailed response to questions.

The SFO on Tuesday called off the prosecution of Dahdaleh, who was accused of paying some $67 million in bribes to former managers of Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) , including a member of Bahrain's royal family, in return for a cut of contracts worth over $3 billion.

But the agency said there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction after two key witnesses from the United States refused to attend the UK trial and face cross-examination and a key witness changed his evidence.

The sudden collapse of Dahdaleh's trial, which began on November 5 and had been expected to run into 2014, follows other high-profile failures by the SFO that has put the agency under pressure to deliver some significant convictions.

Notable SFO successes, such as last year's conviction of fraudster Asil Nadir 19 years after he fled the UK, have been eclipsed by failures, such as a botched probe into the Tchenguiz property moguls that left it nursing a 300 million pound ($493 million) damages claim.

The collapse of the Dahdaleh case is the latest blow to SFO head David Green, who has been tasked with restoring confidence in the cash-strapped agency by bringing top criminals and companies to book after a period of mismanagement that has left its reputation in tatters.

($1 = 0.6087 British pounds)

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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