Part-time Aspen resident convicted in Azerbaijan bribery case
July 13, 2009
MANHATTAN – A part-time Aspen resident was convicted Friday of conspiring with others to corrupt the oil privatization process in Azerbaijan. Frederic Bourke, 63, who owns a home at 2131 Red Mountain Road, also was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of making false statements to the FBI. America’s special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, testified on his behalf during the five-week trial. He was acquitted of money-laundering conspiracy. Bourke, a founder of the handbag maker Dooney & Bourke, faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime to offer payment to foreign government officials to obtain or retain business, and the Travel Act. A sentencing date was not immediately set. Prosecutors argued that Bourke conspired with Viktor Kozeny, also known as the “Pirate of Prague,” to corrupt the oil privatization process in Azerbaijan. Bourke and Kozeny, who once owned the Peak House on Red Mountain, were neighbors in Aspen. Kozeny, an Irish citizen of Czech background, was president and chairman of Oily Rock Group Limited and Minaret Group Limited. He remains free and has successfully fought efforts to extradite him from the Bahamas to face U.S. criminal charges. Mitchell, meanwhile, testified that he still trusts Bourke even though he lost $200,000 in an investment related to Bourke’s business venture. Bourke was accused of bribing key decision-makers from the former Soviet republic from 1997 to 1999. Bourke was charged in 2005 with offering hundreds of millions of dollars to top officials in Azerbaijan in exchange for favorable treatment in oil deals. Besides cash, the defendants also provided jewelry, luxury items and free medical treatment to the officials, prosecutors said. Mitchell testified that he knew nothing of bribes and resigned from a position as a director on the boards of Bourke’s companies as soon as he was told in January 1999 that there were fraud allegations involving Kozeny. During his testimony, Mitchell said he invested $200,000 in Bourke’s company in 1998. Bourke’s offshore company invested in another company that invested in Azerbaijan. “This was a part of my life that was really not on my radar screen,” he said. Mitchell, the Senate majority leader from 1989 to 1995, said he never saw most of the documents about the business that were sent to his U.S. office. The former senior senator from Maine said he sent the $200,000 check without researching the investment.