Here’s what struck us. That nowhere else would Frederic Bourke have been prosecuted on the facts of his case. A few other countries have taken small steps to fight overseas corruption — Germany, the U.K., Japan. But Friday’s verdict showed again that no country comes close to America’s ferocity in punishing bribery abroad. We’re not arguing now if that’s good or bad. We’re just wondering how Bourke came to be convicted of two felonies.
His crime? Investing in a deal in a far-off country where he knew or should have known that bribes would be paid. Prosecutors said he stuck his head in the sand. He didn’t pay any bribes himself and in the end he didn’t benefit from them. The bribes didn’t work and he and the other investors lost their money. But he stuck his head in the sand and the price for that, he learned Friday, is up to five years in prison, and another five for lying to the FBI about what went on.
All criminal defendants try to portray themselves as victims. In Bourke’s case it was true. He was prosecuted for conspiracy but his alleged co-conspirator, Viktor Kozeny, wasn’t in the courtroom — he’s a fugitive living in the Bahamas. The State of New York indicted him years ago for stealing $182 million from his investors, including $8 million from Bourke.
After he realized Kozeny had stolen his money, the story goes, Bourke blew the whistle — complaining first to the president of Azerbaijan and then to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. They believed him. Kozeny was charged in New York with fraud. But the DOJ indicted Bourke anyway. They said he was knowingly part of Kozeny’s bribe-tainted deal, and losing his money didn’t excuse his crime.