Ex-CEO released on bail in Namibia

October 04, 2006|By Bloomberg News

NEW YORK -- Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the former Comverse Technology Inc. chief executive officer facing extradition to the United States for securities fraud, was freed yesterday on N$10 million ($1.3 million) bail by a Namibian judge.

Alexander, 54, had been in jail in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, since his arrest there Sept. 27. The United States is trying to extradite him to face charges related to stock-option backdating. He was accused Aug. 9 of conspiracy, securities fraud, making false filings to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and money laundering.

"This court has no strong evidence to keep the accused detained," Magistrate Uaatjaa Uanivi said at a hearing in Katatura, a suburb of Windhoek. The United States has yet to file an extradition application, indicating that it is treating the matter with "non-urgency," the judge said.

The charges against Alexander and two former Comverse executives are the most wide-ranging from more than 130 inquiries started by United States authorities and companies into manipulations of stock-options timing. The U.S. indictment against Alexander relates to the backdating of stock options from 1998 to 2006.

Alexander posted the full amount of his bail and surrendered his Israeli passport to Namibian authorities. While he fights extradition, he must report to a police station every Monday and Friday and stay in Windhoek unless granted permission to leave, Uanivi said. He will have access to his local bank accounts.

Alexander, an Israeli intelligence officer turned high-technology entrepreneur, hugged his wife, Hana, after the ruling. He, his wife, and his sister Shaula declined to comment. Alexander, a leading architect of Israel's technology boom, left the court about two hours after the hearing in a white Mercedes driven by his lawyer, Rudi Cohrssen.

Namibian Justice official Dennis Khama said yesterday that the magistrate's ruling will be studied before deciding on a possible appeal. The United States has 30 days from the date of Alexander's arrest to make an extradition request, U.S. prosecutors said.

Alexander's successful bid for bail won't hurt U.S. chances on extradition, said Douglas McNabb, a lawyer who specializes in such matters.

"The sole issue today was whether or not he ought to get out on bail," said McNabb, who testified on behalf of three former British bankers who unsuccessfully fought extradition to face United States fraud charges related to the collapse of Enron Corp.

Should Alexander flee Namibia, the United States would have to start new extradition proceedings in another country, McNabb said. Namibia would be entitled to keep whatever money Alexander left behind, McNabb said.

Uanivi said he granted bail because Alexander "has a work permit, and he has invested in Namibia." Uanivi added that Alexander had brought his family to Namibia, a sign he plans to stay in the country.

"We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Mr. Alexander is returned to the United States to face these serious charges," said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf.

Marilyn Williams, an assistant United States legal attache, told the court yesterday that Alexander had tried to bribe a colleague to take the blame for the alleged offenses and had told the executive, whom she didn't identify, that he would leave the country rather than face jail in the United States.

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