The former chief executive officer of Dubai-based Axius Inc., who claimed to have ties to Middle Eastern royalty and investor Warren Buffett, was sentenced to 16 months in prison for conspiring to bribe brokers to manipulate the price of his company’s stock.
Roland Kaufman, 60, was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, for one count of conspiracy to travel to engage in commercial bribery. The Swiss citizen, who lived in Dubai, plotted with an associate to bribe stockbrokers to help push up the share price. Kaufman hoped the move would help Axius to sell a skin-care unit for $100 million, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson told Kaufman he was “in a position where you commanded a great deal of respect and you blew it.
“The point is to hold you accountable in a way that reflects the seriousness of your crime,” the judge said.
Kaufman, who had requested a sentence without jail time, and his friend, Swiss financial professional Jean-Pierre Neuhaus, were arrested March 8, 2012, as part of a sting operation. They had been meeting with an undercover federal agent posing as an accomplice, prosecutors said.
In recorded conversations with the agent, Kaufman described himself as “No. 6 in the world” among financial professionals for handling certain transactions, according to transcripts filed with the court in December. He also claimed to have worked on a private placement for Buffett in 1976 and to be an associate of Saudi and Dubai royal families, according to the transcript.
When the agent suggested the possibility that the scheme could lead to an investigation, Kaufman “cut him off, assured him he would feign ignorance, and then suggested he would use his influence with the Saudi royal family to deflect any inquiry,” prosecutors said in a memorandum filed in December.
Kaufman pleaded guilty in January to the conspiracy charge. Neuhaus, who cooperated with the government after his arrest, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in October and was sentenced to time served in February.
Neuhaus was in federal custody for almost a year after his arrest. Kaufman has remained free in New York on a $2.5 million bond, according to court records.
In addition to his prison sentence, Kaufman was ordered to pay a $450,000 fine.
Eric Snyder, a lawyer for Kaufman, told the judge that his client’s enthusiasm for his company led him to make a mistake.
“This is a man who was trying to fund his company,” Snyder said.
Kaufman’s wife, Bruna, tearfully asked the judge not to send her husband to prison. Bruna Kaufman, who has been living with her husband on an expired visa, said it was unlikely she would be able to visit him while he is in custody.
Kaufman later apologized to the judge for his conduct.
“I’m sorry to the people I’ve hurt,” he said. “I’ve given shame to my family.”
The case is U.S. v. Neuhaus, 12-cr-00439, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).