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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Pirate of Prague' Held in Bahamas

NEW YORK -- Czech expatriate Viktor Kozeny must remain in a Bahamian jail on U.S. charges of bribing Azerbaijani officials in a bid to take over the state-owned oil company, a prosecutor said, citing a judge's ruling.

Kozeny, who was arrested Oct. 5 at his home in Nassau, Bahamas, had asked to be freed on bail as the United States tries to extradite him.

Prosecutors in the Bahamas opposed the request, saying Kozeny had citizenship from Ireland, Venezuela and possibly Grenada and Brazil and might flee if released.

Magistrate Judge Carolita Bethel on Friday refused to grant bail for Kozeny, according to prosecutor Francis Cumberbatch in the Bahamas.

The ruling requiring Kozeny to remain in a maximum-security unit may prompt Kozeny to waive extradition and return voluntarily to the United States.

Kozeny's New York lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement Monday that "Viktor remains detained in the Bahamas" and did not comment further.

An extradition hearing is scheduled for later this year.

Depending upon the claims Kozeny raises there, the extradition process may take as long as two years, Cumberbatch said in an interview.

"Bail has been refused for Mr. Kozeny," Cumberbatch said.

Brian Moree, one of Kozeny's defense attorneys in the Bahamas, did not immediately return a call.

Kozeny, 42, has had permanent-resident status in the Bahamas since 1994, Philip Davis, another defense lawyer, said in court this month. After leaving the Czech Republic, Kozeny received Irish citizenship and renounced his Czech citizenship.

A federal indictment unsealed in New York earlier this month charged Kozeny with plotting to bribe officials in Azerbaijan. He is also accused of other crimes.

In 2001, Czech authorities charged Kozeny, who's known as the "Pirate of Prague," with stripping companies there of $316 million in assets.

In addition, New York state prosecutors in 2003 charged Kozeny with stealing $182 million from investment funds managed by Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors, Columbia University and others.

The new federal indictment alleges that Kozeny paid millions of dollars in bribes to Azeri officials in the late 1990s in an unsuccessful attempt to seize control of the Azeri state oil company, known as Socar.

In a civil suit stemming from the transaction, Kozeny said he made payments to Azeri President Ilkham Aliyev as part of the transaction in 1997 and 1998.

During two weeks of bail hearings this month, Cumberbatch said Kozeny had been issued as many as eight passports from countries including Ireland, the Czech Republic and Venezuela. Authorities also discovered that Kozeny received Venezuelan citizenship and possibly status as a diplomat in Grenada.

Prosecutors also recovered a Venezuelan identification card from Kozeny, in which he listed a different surname, the prosecutor said. Should Kozeny, who has a pilot's license, flee to Venezuela or elsewhere, the United States may be unable to extradite him, Cumberbatch said.