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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

  • Another U.S. Whistleblower Behind Bars? Investor Jailed After Exposing Corrupt Azerbaijani Oil Deal

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    In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we look at the case of multimillionaire American businessman and philanthropist Rick Bourke, who blew the whistle on a fraudulent scheme by international criminals to gain control of the oil riches of the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan — only to end up as the only person sent to jail by federal prosecutors in the massive conspiracy. Since May, Bourke has been held in a federal prison, serving a term of one year and one day for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for alleged knowledge of the bribery that allegedly took place in 1998. Other investors in the Azerbaijan scheme included former Democratic Senate Majority leader George Mitchell and major institutions including Columbia University and AIG, but no one else was jailed in the United States. High-ranking former U.S. and British officials from the CIA and MI6 have raised serious concerns about the conviction of Bourke in part because the key witnesses during his trial were allegedly intelligence assets working for the U.S. government. They are not the only ones who question Bourke’s guilt. Even the judge in his case has admitted having doubts. At the time of Bourke’s sentencing, Shira Scheindlin of the Federal District Court said, "After 10 years of supervising this case, it is still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke was a victim, or a crook, or a little bit of both." We speak to Bourke’s lawyer, the law professor and renowned attorney Michael Tigar, as well as former Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong. "Why is it that they would go after the guy that blew the whistle on the thievery and bribery, Rick Bourke?" Tigar asks. "Why is it that the Czech citizen and the guy, the ex-patriot, and the German-Swiss lawyer all are walking free; the American citizen, philanthropist, and so on, is sitting in a minimum security jail? Well, investment in the Azerbaijan hydrocarbon industry is now safely in the hands of major petroleum companies. Is that a reason?"