Frederic Bourke won’t face Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges after all. He was indicted in May 2005 with Victor Kozeny and David Pinkerton over an alleged plan to bribe officials from Azerbaijan from 1997 to 1999 in connection with the privatization of the state oil company. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the June 2007 dismissal of FCPA charges against Bourke, saying the government failed to indict him within the FCPA’s five-year statute of limitations.
Kozeny wasn’t a party to the appeal because he’s outside the United States and fighting extradition. In October 2007, the Bahamas Supreme Court refused to order his return to the U.S. to face trial. He’s from the Czech Republic and reportedly has Irish citizenship, but he’s been living in the Bahamas for more than a decade. The Bahamas court said the FCPA charges against Kozeny were not provable or prosecutable under local law, and there was an abuse of the court process. Apparently the U.S. government did not properly disclose the U.S. trial court’s dismissal of the FCPA charges on statute of limitations grounds, a failing the Bahamas judge cited as a reason for the ruling.
Co-defendant Pinkerton was dropped from the case in July this year after the government withdrew all charges against him. See United States v. Kozeny, No. 1:05-cr-00518-SAS (S.D.N.Y. July 2, 2008) (order of nolle prosequi). The former head of AIG Global Investment Corp. invested about $15 million of AIG’s money with Kozeny. After the government ended the case against Pinkerton, his lawyer said, “We have always known that David Pinkerton is completely innocent of any wrongdoing and we are thrilled by his vindication. Mr. Pinkerton is a self-made man who through his hard work, integrity and talent rose to the highest levels of his profession. Now that these charges have been entirely dismissed, Mr. Pinkerton looks forward to continuing his career.”
Prosecutors obtained a related conviction in the case in February 2004. Clayton Lewis, a former employee of Omega Advisors, Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA. Then in July 2007, Omega itself settled with the government, entering into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ and agreeing to a civil forfeiture of $500,000. Omega invested more than $100 million with Kozeny in 1998 for the Azeri privatization program. The program fizzled and Omega lost its entire investment, as did Bourke, AIG and others. Reports said Kozeny kept $182 million from the deal.
Bourke, 62 — owner of the luxury handbag brand Dooney & Bourke — said after his indictment in 2005 that he invested $8 million with Kozeny only after lawyers had advised him the deal was legal. Soon after, he said, he suspected illegal behavior. His lawyers said he traveled to Azerbaijan to warn then President Heydar Aliyev about the scheme and he testified before a New York grand jury “as a victim of Kozeny’s fraud.”
Last month, a Washington-based non-profit watchdog group that defends whistleblowers alleged that James Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, helped Kozeny by quashing staff concerns and writing letters on Kozeny’s behalf. Wolfensohn has said the report by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is wrong.
On its website, GAP says,
The report shows that James Wolfensohn, then president of the World Bank, personally assisted a rogue financier in his efforts to gain control of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). While these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, documents show that Wolfensohn silenced Bank staff members who spoke out about corrupt government officials working with Viktor Kožený, a notorious financial operator who had allegedly defrauded investors in the Czech Republic of nearly $1 billion only three years earlier.
“Before the financial fiasco in Azerbaijan occurred, Bank staff tried to expose the risks inherent in dealing with Kožený and corrupt government officials poised to profit illicitly from Caspian oil,” said Bea Edwards, GAP International Program Director and author of the report. “They were silenced about the impending fraud, however, when Wolfensohn directly intervened on Kožený’s behalf.”
A Bloomberg story said Bourke’s lawyers provided documents to GAP and that Bourke funded the Kozeny-World Bank report. GAP says Kozeny’s scheme in Azerbaijan came to light “in 1999, when U.S. investor and whistleblower Frederic Bourke came forward and exposed the fact that at least one major investor had been defrauded . . . .” Kozeny has denied taking money illegally from investors and criticized GAP for its work on Bourke’s behalf.