A former executive at Omega Advisors Inc., Leon Cooperman’s $6 billion hedge fund, was sentenced to time he already served in prison for joining in an international bribery scheme 15 years ago.
Clayton Lewis, who previously served six days behind bars, won leniency from U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald in Manhattan for agreeing to cooperate with the U.S. government’s probe of the case. He was ordered to pay $100 in court costs, Buchwald said today in Manhattan federal court.
“I made a terrible decision 15 years ago,” Lewis, who now lives in Australia, told the judge. “This case has been a dark cloud for 10 years now.”
Lewis, 48, pleaded guilty in 2004 to federal charges that he conspired with Czech-born promoter Viktor Kozeny to pay massive bribes as part of a 1998 scheme to buy the state oil company in Azerbaijan. Soon after his 2003 arrest, he agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in building a bribery case against other investors.
Omega wasn’t prosecuted and has denied wrongdoing. In 2007, the firm agreed to pay $500,000 to resolve a U.S. criminal investigation. The hedge fund subsequently sued Lewis for inducing it to invest more than $100 million in the deal while hiding the illegal bribes.
The lawsuit settled on confidential terms in 2010. Omega recovered a portion of his losses.
Cooperman declined to comment today on Lewis’s sentence.
The Azerbaijan probe led to the conviction of Frederic Bourke, co-founder of handbag maker Dooney & Bourke, for joining in the scheme. Bourke, who hasn’t yet served his one-year prison sentence, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse his conviction. U.S. prosecutors point to the case as one of their top victories under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an anti- bribery law.
Lewis didn’t testify at Bourke’s 2009 trial. He provided evidence for the government against Kozeny and against ex- American International Group Inc. (AIG) director David Pinkerton, who was indicted with Bourke in 2005.
Prosecutors dismissed the Pinkerton case in 2008. Kozeny, who was also charged by the U.S., has successfully fought extradition from the Bahamas, where he lives. He made his fortune in the Czech Republic in the early 1990s.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Chernoff said in court that Lewis played an “important” role in building a case against Kozeny and that he was “ready and willing” to testify against Bourke had Lewis been called by the government.
Defense attorney Gerald Krovatin read from the government’s letter seeking leniency for Lewis. Prosecutors called Lewis “detailed and truthful” and of “great importance to the government’s anti-corruption enforcement,” Krovatin said.
Another government cooperator, Swiss lawyer Hans Bodmer, was sentenced last month to time already served in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.
Lewis previously pleaded guilty to New York state charges that he perjured himself in front of a grand jury probing the transaction.
The case is U.S. v. Clayton Lewis, 03-cr-00930, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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