First Frederic Bourke. A witness testifying for the government this week at Bourke’s trial in New York may have hurt the prosecution’s case. Christine Rastas, who worked for Viktor Kozeny in Azerbaijan, said her boss told Egyptian businessman Shafik Gabr about bribing Azeri officials. Kozeny’s conversation with his investor took place in a hotel bar in Moscow. Crucially, Bourke wasn’t there, the witness said. And she doubted whether Kozeny needed to pay bribes at all. Local officials, she said, typically took legal stakes in privatization projects.
As Bloomberg’s David Glovin reported here, her testimony could end up helping Bourke. I had worked on other projects where the government was an equity partner, Rastas, who is testifying for prosecutors in exchange for immunity, told jurors. So if one of Kozeny’s insiders didn’t know about the bribes, why should Bourke?
Rastas, who worked at the U.S. Defense Department before joining Kozeny, also recalled helping his security chief, John Pulley, flush some meeting notes down a toilet. She thought the notes were about trusts Kozeny was creating for Azeri officials.
Prosecutors say Bourke, 63, invested in the planned privatization of Azerbaijan’s state oil company in 1998 despite knowing Kozeny would pay bribes. The privatization didn’t happen and the dozen or so investors, including Bourke, lost a combined $350 million. In 2005, Bourke was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering and lying to federal investigators. Kozeny was also charged but has stayed in the Bahamas to escape prosecution. New York state prosecutors have also charged him with stealing $180 million from his investors. Bourke faces 30 years in prison if convicted. He denies knowing about the bribes.
Read David Glovin’s reports on the trial for Bloomberg here.
Read all our posts about U.S. v. Kozeny and the prosecution of Frederic Bourke here.
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And William Jefferson. His trial started this week with jury selection. Federal district court judge Tim Ellis called about 100 potential jurors to his courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia. The pool will be narrowed to 12 regular jurors and four alternates. The trial of the former congressman, like Bourke’s, is expected to last about a month. Judge Ellis said he’s not planning to sequester the jury. Bruce Alpert’s report for The Times Picayune is here.
Jefferson, 62, faces 16 counts including violating the FCPA, soliciting and accepting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
In his report, Alpert said: Before the trial, Jefferson’s attorneys had asked Ellis for a change of venue, accusing the Justice Department of trying the case in Virginia because it has a smaller pool of African-American jurors than there would be in either Washington, D.C., or New Orleans, where they argued the case should be heard. Ellis rejected the argument. The pool of potential jurors Tuesday was overwhelmingly white with only a handful of African-Americans. Jefferson is an African-American Harvard-educated lawyer and nine-term member of Congress.
Read all our posts about William Jefferson here.