By AMY GOODMAN & JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Democracy Now
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?”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today in a Democracy Now! exclusive, we spend the hour looking at a story of yet another whistleblower imprisoned under the Obama administration, a story that could be straight out of a Hollywood thriller. The saga centers on an American businessman and philanthropist who was caught in an amazing web of international white-collar crime and mysterious suspected double agents of powerful intelligence agencies, a man who, when he blew the whistle, ended up being indicted by federal prosecutors, convicted and sent to prison for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The cast of unlikely characters includes a man nicknamed the Pirate of Prague, a former U.S. senator, an Ivy League university and the presidents of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.
AMY GOODMAN: The story centers on a multimillionaire named Frederic Bourke, known as Rick. You might recognize the name. He is best known for co-founding the luxury handbag company Dooney & Bourke. Using profits from the handbag company, he later became a major investor in medical research, including cutting-edge cancer treatments.