Friday, October 07, 2005

Kožený detained

Viktor Kožený - who emmigrated with his parents from Czechoslovakia to Germany in 1979 - studied physics in our department of Harvard University for several months before 1989; I was told that everyone liked him here. He switched to management and earned a Bc. degree from Harvard Extension School. In 1990, after the collapse of communism, he returned to Czechoslovakia. He charmed most of the leading economists, including Václav Klaus. With his "Harvard Investment Funds" (whose name was justified by the fact that at that time, he may have been the only Czech citizen who had something to do with Harvard, at least as a student) :-), he became a superstar of the voucher privatization who transformed this event from a game for 600,000 people (who could get pretty rich) to a mass event in which a majority of Czechoslovak citizens (about 8 millions) participated. Eventually he controlled companies whose value was in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then he left Czechoslovakia again, acquired Irish citizenship, and extended his business to the former Soviet Union where he bought some worthless oil stocks in Azerbaijan; fortunately, as some sources say, he sold them for an even greater amount of money to some Americans. When they found out what they bought, they were not happy. Many people both in the Czech Republic (some of the investors who sold him his vouchers plus anti-capitalist activists) as well as the U.S. wanted him to be arrested. (I've lost roughly 20 stocks of a glass factory because of the strange situation of his funds, but I'm not gonna hate him because of that.)

He has lived on the Bahamas and was extremely interested in various modern technologies - smart dust is an example - but also affine geometry. ;-) Three years ago or so, during his (unsuccessful) bid for the immunity from the European Parliament in which he developed an intriguing program how to transform the EU into a 25th century technologically advanced country, he offered me the post of the shadow minister of education (be sure that I have never received a penny from him), and I am proud of the offer even though - try to guess - I rejected it.

It was announced that Kožený was detained yesterday, together with two U.S. employees of him, and charged the U.S. accusations on 27 counts (and thousands of pages), mostly bribery of the former Soviet officials. He may be a "pirate of Prague" as they call him, but despite his questionable approach to moral values, I think that he is still a rather extraordinary person and it's bad that our society can't use such people more efficiently than putting them into jail.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Education Administor:

    Wouldn't the whole thing sounds strange that FBI would be interested in an attempted bribery (a bribery that never actually took place) by an alien living in foreign soil, and the whole thing happened more than a decade ago? It's none secret that tons of corrupted Chinese officials steal huge sums of money and they took refuge in USA comfortably, and FBI could care less about that fact.

    Except for in this case, it's about Azerbaijan and it's about OIL. That makes it a whole differently to the US government. The world's oil is peaking and there's a grave consequence and the top two guys of the US government, being former oil men, are well aware of the oil peak and it's vital to guarantee the US interest in Azerbaijan's oil, one of the few last places where you can expect some production increase in the near future.

    It's all about the oil!