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U.S. seeks fugitive CEO in Namibia

The African nation gets an extradition request for Jacob Alexander, the former Comverse head.

October 24, 2006|From Reuters

The African nation of Namibia has received a U.S. extradition request for fugitive millionaire Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the former head of Comverse Technology Inc. wanted by U.S. authorities on criminal charges of manipulating stock options.

"We have received the extradition request from the United States," David Khama, deputy chief legal officer for Namibia's Ministry of Justice, said Monday. "The documents will now be submitted to the minister of justice, who will then consider them."

Alexander, 54, former chief executive and founder of Comverse, was arrested in Namibia last month, but a magistrate later freed him on bail of $1.3 million, rejecting prosecution arguments that he could flee.

Alexander, who has surrendered his passport, was not required to plead on the U.S. charges at his Namibia hearing, but American media reports quoted a statement from him as saying he intended to plead not guilty.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office had no comment on Alexander's extradition request.

Alexander was arrested Sept. 27 in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, where he had been living with his family. Namibia lies along the South Atlantic coast between Angola and South Africa.

Alexander and two other former executives at the New York-based voicemail-software maker are accused of backdating millions of stock options to days when the shares were trading at lower prices, allowing executives to reap substantial gains, according to details of his indictment.

In August, Alexander was charged with 32 criminal counts including conspiracy, securities fraud and money laundering. He could face as many as 25 years in prison if convicted. This month, U.S. prosecutors added bribery allegations to Alexander's indictment.

Legal experts say the United States could be in for a lengthy battle to extradite Alexander, citing an earlier case of a German citizen who has successfully used Namibian law to fight off a German extradition request for some four years.

The United States has no extradition treaty with Namibia, but requests can still be pursued through the courts.

Alexander, an Israeli citizen and permanent resident of the United States, has substantial investments in Namibia, which could form a basis for arguing against extradition.

Khama said if the justice minister approved the U.S. extradition request, it would then be forwarded to the Katutura magistrate's court and an extradition hearing date would be set.

"The process is now completely in the hands of the Namibian authorities," said Ray Castello, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Windhoek.

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