Fugitive CEO granted bail by Namibian court

Fugitive businessman Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, accused in the United States of hatching a scheme to pocket millions of dollars by secretly manipulating stock options, was granted bail by a Namibian court on Tuesday.

Alexander, the former chief executive of voicemail-software maker Comverse Technology, was arrested on September 26 in the Namibian capital Windhoek at the request of the FBI after at two-month manhunt.

He was granted bail of about $1,3-million, his lawyer Richard Metcalfe said, on condition that he hands in his passport, is not allowed to leave the district of Windhoek and has to report twice a week to an Interpol inspector.

“We are extremely pleased,” Metcalfe said.

The Namibian government opposed bail on the request of the United States, arguing he could flee the country before a US extradition request reached Namibian authorities.

However, Metcalfe said: “Magistrate Uatjo Uanivi found that the evidence presented for denying him bail were not convincing at all.

“There was no reason to believe he would not be willing to stay in Namibia pending extradition.”

The US has 30 days to lodge an extradition request from the date of Alexander’s arrest. Only then will a formal hearing be held. US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said last week she would seek Alexander’s swift extradition to face charges in federal court in Brooklyn.

Alexander only briefly referred to “the highly technical charges” against him during the first day of his bail hearing on Monday and said he intends to plead not guilty.

In his affidavit filed with the court, Alexander (54) an Israeli citizen, said he had been living in the desert country with his wife and three children since July and had transferred almost $16-million from Israel to Namibian commercial banks.

“While in Namibia I have used my own name openly and publicly in all my encounters and ventures with government officials and private individuals alike.

“I entered Namibia openly and lawfully, and I have not in any manner tried to hide my whereabouts from anyone,” he said.

Alexander, who has a two-year permit to live and work in Namibia, purchased a $500 000 house on the Windhoek Country Club Estate. His children attend the city’s international school.

According to his statement he has invested a further $1,5-million in various business ventures in Namibia with local partners. He has purchased of a number of properties and plans various low-cost housing developments.

Authorities began hunting for Alexander in late July shortly before a criminal complaint was unsealed accusing him and two other former top executives of fraud.

Before he disappeared, Alexander allegedly transferred $57-million to Israel.

It is alleged that from 1991 through 2005, Alexander exercised options and sold stocks worth approximately $150-million, making a $138-million profit, according to the complaint. Of that, about $6,4-million was generated by backdating options.

Two other defendants, former finance chief David Kreinberg and former senior general counsel William Sorin, surrendered in August and were released on $1-million bond each.

The complaint unsealed in federal court accuses the three men of making stock options more lucrative by backdating their exercise price to a low point in the stock’s value. Usually, a stock option’s exercise price coincides with the market value at the time of a grant to give the recipient an incentive to drive the price

higher.

Prosecutors allege two other defendants Kreinberg and Sorin earned about $1-million each on backdated options.

In addition, the company awarded thousands of stock options to fictional employees, then secretly transferred the awards to an internal account under the name IM Fanton, which stood for phantom, court papers said. The scheme allowed Alexander to award those options to real “favoured employees” and to himself without board of directors approval, the papers added.

Comverse Technology is headquartered in Woodbury, New York, giving Brooklyn prosecutors jurisdiction over the case. - Sapa-AP

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