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Fugitive Alexander Fights Extradition

A magistrate in Namibia denies bail to the former Comverse Technology chief executive, calling him a flight risk.

October 03, 2006|From Bloomberg News and Reuters

Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the former Comverse Technology Inc. chief executive who is wanted by the U.S., tried to bribe a colleague to take the blame for the crimes he is accused of, a U.S. Embassy attache told an African magistrate Monday.

The magistrate later denied Alexander bail, calling him a flight risk.

Alexander, 54, was arrested Wednesday in Windhoek, Namibia. The U.S. wants him extradited to face a 32-count indictment relating to backdating of Comverse stock options. The charges against him include conspiracy, securities fraud and making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Marilyn Williams, assistant legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, the capital of Namibia's neighbor South Africa, told the court that Alexander had offered an unidentified executive $2 million, then $5 million, to take the blame, and said he would pay even more.

"He told the individual he can name his own price," she said.

Williams didn't identify the person Alexander allegedly tried to bribe. The person has agreed to cooperate in the case, she said.

Hermann Oosthuizen, a lawyer for Alexander, called Williams' allegations hearsay.

Alexander, through a statement read in court by Oosthuizen, said he should be freed on bail because Namibia modified a law to allow his arrest.

Namibia amended its extradition laws effective last week to allow the rendering of fugitives to the U.S., according to a letter from the office of Roslynn Majskopf, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., that was filed in federal court. There is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and the West African country.

The U.S. government filed its criminal case against Alexander in August, accusing him and two other former executives of Woodbury, N.Y.-based Comverse of crimes related to the backdating of stock options since 1991. The charges are the most wide-ranging so far among the more than 130 inquiries started by U.S. authorities and companies into manipulation of options.

Most of the cases center on alleged backdating, which amounts to cherry picking of favorable prices for stock option grants after the fact. The practice can be illegal if it isn't disclosed to shareholders, and because it can understate company expenses and overstate profit.

"I intend to plead not guilty and will defend the charges on merit if ever extradited," Alexander said in his statement.

Alexander has been a fugitive since the U.S. filed its case. He was arrested at the Windhoek Country Club resort after suspicious transactions were reported to the country's central bank.

He said in his statement that he came to Namibia in July and planned to settle there and invest millions in its economy.

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