Friday, October 07, 2005

The offshore Irish

From a seemingly obscure US indictment of three individuals for bribery during the privatisation of an oil company in Azerbaijan, we learn that one of the indictees:

Viktor Kozeny ... 42, an Irish citizen of Czech background, was president and chairman of Oily Rock Group Limited and Minaret Group Limited when he and the two other men [ Frederic Bourke Jr. and David Pinkerton ] — both American citizens — tried to buy off senior Azerbaijan officials.

There is a more expansive (subs. req'd) account in the Wall Street Journal, noting that Kozeny lives in the Bahamas and Pinkerton works for the somewhat jinxed American Insurance Group (AIG), which is just emerging from accounting scandals. There is no apparent connection between Kozeny's Irish citizenship, the dodgy insurance deals that AIG conducted in Dublin, or the fact that a big shareholding in AIG reverts to an Irish charity under certain contingencies, but all illustrate the country's attractiveness to, shall we say, entrepreneurial transactions.

Now while Ireland is all multicultural now, one has to wonder exactly how Kozeny got Irish citizenship; remember this is the kind of the thing that the government used to be fussy about, at least when it came to the art benefactors, the Beits. And since we were just posting about extradition issues a few days ago, there's one here too:

Kozeny .. has been taken into custody in the Bahamas and prosecutors are "actively" seeking his extradition ... Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Kozeny, said in a statement that Kozeny is not a U.S. citizen and, as a result, can't be charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He said they are evaluating whether to fight extradition to the U.S.

In the background is the question of whether Kozeny is seeking Irish consular assistance in the Bahamas to get out of jail there and/or to avoid extradition to the US. And whether the Americans might be annoyed about that. We'll update as necessary.

UPDATE 8 OCT: The Irish Times (subs. req'd) has more information. Kozeny got the citizenship under the "passports for sale" scheme (the official one, not Charlie Haughey's piggy bank version) in 1995. The government is trying to revoke it. Related story on the Sunday Times. Also, the Bourke indictee has a day job at Dooney & Bourke, that he probably should have stuck to.

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