Conn. man gets year in prison in oil bribe case

AP News
Posted: Nov 11, 2009 9:07 AM

A Connecticut businessman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Tuesday for conspiring with others to corrupt the oil privatization process in Azerbaijan.

Frederic Bourke, 53, of Greenwich, Conn., was convicted in July of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and making false statements to the FBI. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin also fined him $1 million Tuesday.

America's special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, testified on Bourke's behalf during the federal trial, where he was also acquitted of money laundering conspiracy.

Bourke could have faced up to 10 years in prison, but Scheindlin cited his extraordinary life of charitable works in the field of medicine. She also said she had concerns about the case, which produced little evidence to show bribes were actually paid.

"It's still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke was a victim or a crook or a little bit of both," the judge said.

Bourke declined to address the court before he was sentenced.

At trial, Mitchell testified that he still trusts Bourke even though he lost $200,000 in an investment related to Bourke's business venture.

Bourke was charged in 2005 with offering hundreds of millions of dollars to top officials in Azerbaijan in exchange for favorable treatment in oil deals. Prosecutors said he bribed key decision makers from the former Soviet republic from 1997 to 1999.

Besides cash, the defendants also provided jewelry and luxury items and free medical treatment to the officials, prosecutors said.