Bahamas approves extradition against Irish businessman

The Bahamas can begin extradition hearings against an Irish businessman wanted in New York on charges of plotting to bribe government officials in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, prosecutors said Friday.

Approval for the proceedings against investment promoter Viktor Kozeny was given by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, prosecutor Francis Cumberbatch said in magistrate court. In October, Kozeny was indicted on 27 counts in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The indictment said he and two other men tried to buy off senior Azerbaijan officials.

Azerbaijan, rich in oil resources, began privatizing some of its state-owned enterprises in the 1990s. The defendants tried to bribe key decision makers and corrupt the privatization process, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes were promised and tens of millions of dollars were actually paid in the scheme that ran from August 1997 until about 1999, the U.S. Attorney's Office has said.

Police, acting on an extradition request issued by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, arrested Kozeny Oct. 5 at his Bahamas home in the exclusive gated community of Lyford Cay. A date for Kozeny's extradition hearings will be determined during his next court appearance on Dec. 12. The other two men indicted with Kozeny were Frederic Bourke Jr. and American International Group executive David Pinkerton, AP reports.

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