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Viktor Kožený (born June 28, 1963 in Prague) is a Czech-born fugitive financier. According to Bloomberg News, he graduated from Harvard in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in economics. However, he can not be located in the Harvard Alumni directory as of 2015. Viktor Kožený is officially an Irish citizen imprisoned in the Bahamas in 2005 but released in 2007. He currently lives in a gated community in the Bahamas. Efforts to bring him to justice stem from both the Czech Republic and the USA. An international warrant has been issued for Kožený, who in the early '90s ran one of the great scams of the post-Communist era. By the media he is often called "the pirate of Prague".
He was imprisoned after a US extradition request but that was thrown out on appeal in October 2007. However the US said they will press the case (there are further two appeals available).
In February 2008 a court case against him and his partner Boris Vostrý has started at Prague Municipal Court. The judge said he expects the trial to last about six months. Kožený has remained in the Bahamas and has not been attending the trial. He asked the prosecution to publish the charges on the Internet, which the state prosecutor has refused to do.
Czech voucher privatization
During the voucher privatization Czech state assets were supposed to be handed over to Czech citizens through a system of vouchers, which could then be used to buy shares in companies. However mutual funds were founded, most successfully the one started by Kožený, Harvard Capital and Consulting (which has no affiliation with Harvard University).
Soon thousands of Czechs were signing over their voucher books to "Harvard", who promised a 1000% rate of return on investment. Harvard Funds bought shares in a number of companies, stripped assets and transferred the money abroad to offshore tax havens like the Bahamas. This scam turned out to be a huge success for Kožený and those working with him, who allegedly stole millions of dollars from investors in his funds.
In 1994, Kožený wanted to conduct a similar transaction in Azerbaijan. The country was considering privatizing its state run oil company, and Kožený offered his services. US investors handed their money to him, over $400 million in total from clients such as AIG and Columbia University. The Azerbaijan government changed its mind on privatization, but Kožený did not return the money and instead ran to tax haven Bahamas. Viktor Kožený in an exclusive interview with Mirza Khazar of the RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service on July 17, 2001 urged Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev to fulfill his promises made in 1997–1998 concerning the privatization program in his country. According to Kožený, President Aliev and his son, Ilham, personally met with him and other members of Kožený's investors group in Baku and encouraged them to buy vouchers from citizens. Shortly after the first part of the interview with Viktor Kožený was aired, the newspaper "Alternativ," with close ties to the Azerbaijan President's Office, reacted promptly, claiming that President Aliev or his son Ilham never met with Kožený. The paper admitted Kožený may have been tricked by some officials, but rejected his claim that President Aliev made any commitments to his group. Kožený faces a serious legal action by famed Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who has filed an indictment in New York for his bribery of Azeri officials.
His trial for the scam began on June 1, 2010.
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- Johnson, Luke (April 2, 2006). "The Maverick: The spectacular rise and fall of a hyperactive privatiser". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- "Another U.S. Whistleblower Behind Bars? Investor Jailed After Exposing Corrupt Azerbaijani Oil Deal". Democracy Now!. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 21 Oct 2013.
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- Mirza Khazar Sep 24, 2006 (September 24, 2006). "Mirza Khazar: Viktor Kožený argues President Aliev Made Promises". En.mirzexezerinsesi.net. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
- "Lyford Cay resident Viktor Kožený, who faces 17 counts of fraud-related charges in the U.S., will either have to surrender to U.S. authorities or face extradition, according to a New York City district attorney." (Bahamas News, June 9, 2005)
- How Bribery Case Could Scupper U.S. Policy