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Entries in Azerbaijan (51)

Tuesday
Feb192008

Disorder In The Court, Part II

We noted yesterday some of the causes of judicial corruption -- underpaid and overworked judges, complex and slow court procedures, and anti-corruption enforcement monopolized by a single agency. Unfortunately, all those symptoms show up in Azerbaijan's judicial system.

A Living Wage? Judges' salaries are low even after a big recent pay raise. According to Transparency International's 2007 country report, local judges make the annual equivalent of $11,635 -- compared to $23,800 in Estonia. As for their workload, there are only about 4 judges per 100,000 people. That's the lowest number in the region. Germany, by the way, has more than five times as many judges per capita.

No Show, No Problem. Predictably, court litigation is extremely time-consuming. "This is especially ruinous for private companies," TI said, "which usually prefer to drop a case or 'negotiate' with the judge. Parties in litigation have many opportunities to drag out a case because the legis­lation prevents a court from proceeding to a deci­sion if the other party does not appear in court. There is no punishment for the defaulting party. On average about 5 per cent of businesses use courts in Azerbaijan, compared with 30 per cent in Europe and Central Asia."

Going Once, Going Twice . . . Judges -- who owe their positions to the executive branch, as does the general prosecutor -- can decide whether or not to hear a case without giving any explan­ation. And in rendering judgments, they aren't bound by precedent or statutory law. Fuad Mustafayev, deputy chairman of the opposition Popular Front Party, told TI that judges in Azerbaijan decide cases in two ways: for political reasons or, in a judi­cial equivalent to the construction "tender," they rule in favor of the highest bidder. Lawyers complain that they've been turned into "brokers" rather than legal advocates. The Ministry of Justice evaluates judges’ performances annually. "None has been fired for corrupt practices, however, though such cases are numerous . . . ," TI said.

Enforce This. Bailiffs aren't part of the judicial system, but fall under the executive branch. TI said they "lack the power, skills, resources and initiative to enforce decisions. . . . Failure to enforce court decisions further undermines trust in the justice system."

Recognizing Risk. Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, oil-rich Azerbaijan has been popular with foreign investors. They've committed some $60 billion to long-term oilfield development there. But the country of eight million demonstrates again that where the rule of law is under attack, corruption flourishes. That's why companies trying to maintain an effective FCPA compliance program will want to mark Azerbaijan -- and other countries showing the same symptoms -- with a big red flag.

View Transparency International's 2007 Global Judicial Corruption Report here.

Thursday
Oct252007

Victor Kozeny’s Extradition From the Bahamas Is Denied

The Bahamas News Online Edition (The Bahama Journal) reports today that the Supreme Court there has ruled against the extradition of Victor Kozeny (left). The ruling means Kozeny is no longer under arrest in the Bahamas, which had detained him at the request of the U.S. government. He was indicted in the United States in October 2005 for violating and conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with a scheme to bribe senior government officials in Azerbaijan.

On June 21, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed all FCPA and related counts against Kozeny and his co-defendants, Frederic Bourke, Jr. and David Pinkerton, based on the running of the five-year statute of limitations. The Justice Department's appeal against the dismissal is still pending. If the charges are reinstated, only Bourke and Pinkerton will now go to trial.

According to the report, 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.

Victor Kozeny is from the Czech Republic. He reportedly has Irish citizenship and has lived in the Bahamas for more than a decade. American prosecutors had sought evidence against him and his co-defendants from the Netherlands and Switzerland. Delays in obtaining the evidence led to the running of the statute of limitations in the U.S. prosecution.

View the report from the Bahamas News Online Edition Here.

View a prior post about Victor Kozeny Here.

Wednesday
Aug222007

Prosecutors Appeal Dismissal of FCPA Charges Related to Azerbaijan

The press is reporting that the Department of Justice on August 21, 2007 appealed the dismissal of FCPA charges against three men in connection with a bribery scheme in Azerbaijan.

On June 21, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed all FCPA and related counts of an indictment against Viktor Kozeny, Frederic Bourke, Jr. and David Pinkerton. The District Court said the statute of limitations had run. The Justice Department argued that the five-year limitations period should be tolled based on the government's official requests for foreign evidence from the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The October 2005 indictment accused the three in a scheme to bribe senior government officials in Azerbaijan in order to ensure the privatization of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan ("SOCAR").

On July 6, 2007, hedge fund Omega Advisors, Inc. acknowledged that Clayton Lewis, one of its former employees, had learned, prior to Omega’s investment in the privatization of SOCAR, that Kozeny had entered into arrangements with some officials of the government of Azerbaijan that gave those officials a financial interest in the privatization. Lewis pleaded guilty on February 10, 2004 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA .

Omega entered into a settlement agreement with the DOJ and will not be prosecuted for any crimes related to its participation. Omega civilly forfeited $500,000 and agreed to continue to cooperate with the Government in connection with its investigation and prosecution of the case.

As a postscript, the DOJ noted that Omega invested more than $100 million in the Azeri privatization program in the spring and summer of 1998 and lost all of its investment, and to date privatization has not occurred.

View A Press Report of the Government's Appeal Here.

View the DOJ's Announcement of the Omega Settlement Here.

View the DOJ's Announcement of the Indictment Against Kozeny et al Here.

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