Kobi Alexander Will Be Facing Charges of Money-laundering

Shirley Yom-Tov
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Shirley Yom-Tov

The indictment against Jacob (Kobi) Alexander was unsealed and publicized yesterday. The charges, which could lead to a maximum of 25 years in jail if he is convicted on all counts, served as the basis for the American extradition request to Namibia that led to his arrest on Wednesday.

Alexander, 54, was arrested while eating lunch with his wife in their suite at the luxurious Windhoek Country Club, a hotel and casino complex in the capital city of Namibia. The family was staying there while looking for a house to buy in the former colonial town.

New facts revealed by the indictment show that while preparing to flee fraud charges in the United States, Alexander, the former head of Comverse Technologies, deposited $57 million in two Israeli bank accounts, one in Bank Hapoalim and one in Bank Leumi. While fact that he had deposited money in Israel was known even before the fugitive ex-CEO was captured this week, the details of the accounts were new.

Spread out over 44 pages, the indictment consists of 32 charges against the disgraced Israeli hi-tech executive, who founded the Comverse empire and ran it until being booted out in May, when the true dimensions of a stock options scandal came to light. Not only had Alexander, along with other company officers, backdated and springloaded stock options; they had run a secret slush fund of options to pamper disgruntled company officers, sometimes registering allocations to fake employees.

Most of the facts are well-known, but reading the charge sheet brings some new points to light.

The U.S. is demanding that Alexander return $138 million. That is over half his fortune - which, according to last year's TheMarker report on the 500 richest Israelis, is estimated at $250 million.

Under the money-laundering section of the charges, the American prosecutors say that Alexander had two accounts in Israel: accounts 131883 at Bank Hapoalim and 603401/78 at Leumi. In New York, the high-tech millionaire had two more accounts, at Citigroup Smith Barney.

The American authorities say that Alexander transferred the $57 million to Israel from his Citigroup account in order to hide it from them - thereby meeting the definition of money-laundering.

Bank Leumi said that it could not provide any details, and added that, with no connection to this case, it always complies with the law in all matters. Bank Hapoalim said much the same thing: "The bank wants to emphasize that it upholds all legal requirements, including, of course, the regulations concerning money-laundering. The bank does not comment on the business of others, whether they are clients or not."

Experts in Israel said that transferring money to Israel in this fashion may not be against Israeli law, since when Alexander moved the money, he had not yet been indicted or even declared a fugitive in the U.S. As long as the American authorities have not submitted, and the Israeli Justice Ministry has not approved, a request to block the funds, Alexander is legally entitled to make use of them in any legal manner. He could therefore even withdraw them to prevent the Americans from seizing the money.

However, it is possible that charges will be filed against Alexander in Israel too, and that his funds could be blocked.

The charge sheet also lists Alexander's assets in the U.S. It turns out that he owns two apartments in central Manhattan, one on the corner of 8th Avenue and 57th Street and another nearby, just two blocks from Central Park. The value of the flats was not mentioned in the documents.

The Wall Street Journal reported that while in Windhoek, Namibia, Alexander conducted a perfectly open lifestyle. He even received a temporary residency permit and registered his two children in an international school there.

So how was he caught, exactly? According to the Wall Street Journal, a month ago, a clerk at the Namibian supervisor of banks' office noticed an unusual influx of capital into the country - in fact, tens of millions of dollars - into accounts that Alexander had opened.

The clerk thought that suspicious, especially since Alexander was not a resident and had no business contacts in Namibia, and he had only arrived a few days earlier.

The clerk lodged a query with Interpol, which contacted the FBI, and the rest is history.

Namibia is on the southwest coast of Africa, a neighbor of South Africa. It recently made headlines after actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose to give birth to their daughter there.



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