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Albany developer’s Bahamas return after spared jail time

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

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Joe Lewis

ALBANY’S principal investor was given permission to return to The Bahamas as early as yesterday after being spared jail time following his previous guilty plea to securities fraud.

Judge Jessica Clarke, in a written order, said Joe Lewis, the Lyford Cay-based British billionaire, is “released from his bond and is hereby permitted to travel today or tomorrow to The Bahamas on his plane” after sentencing him to a $5m fine and three years’ probation over a much-publicised insider trading scheme.

Mr Lewis, who spearheaded Albany’s multi-million dollar development in southwestern New Providence via his Tavistock Group, acknowledged responsibility for his conduct as he told the southern New York district court: “I made a terrible mistake. I broke the law. I am ashamed, sorry and hold myself accountable.”

The judge said he had committed “without doubt a serious offence” but, because he “faced his charges head on instead of engaging in what could have been a lengthy extradition fight”, she would opt for the lenient sentence sought by both Mr Lewis’ attorneys and US prosecutors. Judge Clarke added that the billionaire’s age, and health, meant his life would be at serious risk if he were jailed.

US federal prosecutors, in their earlier sentencing submissions, agreed that imposing an 18-24 month jail term as suggested by sentencing guidelines “would be greater than necessary” given Mr Lewis’ health challenges and that he should receive a lighter punishment.

“Joseph Lewis committed grave, serial breaches of the duties he owed publicly traded companies to keep information confidential,” the US attorney’s office for southern New York said. “As a billionaire investor, Lewis had privileged access to non-public, market-moving information by virtue of his large investments in certain companies.

“But while he was obligated to keep that information secret, and not trade on it, he did the opposite. On at least four separate occasions he tipped his girlfriend, personal pilots, employees, and friends with closely guarded, valuable information entrusted to him, intending that those individuals would trade securities he recommended.

“With the benefit of Lewis’s recommendations, those individuals profited. This insider trading was not the result of aberrant, one-time conduct, but rather a troubling pattern of misconduct over the course of several years. In the process, Lewis’s conduct undermined the integrity of the securities markets from which he has so handsomely profited for decades.”

The US prosecutors continued: “Unlike many defendants who commit insider trading, Lewis’s con-duct was not motivated by personal profit - he did not personally trade based on inside information, and did not make any money. Lewis describes his insider trading in his letter to the Court as motivated by “hubris and childish exuberance’.

“Whether his criminal conduct was motivated by hubris, ego, a desire to make a financial gift with-out parting with his own money, an irrational form of greed or some other reason, it is clear that Lewis believed he was above the law—that he had achieved a level of wealth and stature that relieved him from having to operate by the same rules that apply to everyday investors.”

However, they ultimately conceded: “Lewis is elderly and battles significant health issues, many of which would make a term of imprisonment more difficult than it would be for a differently situated defendant. Those health conditions, coupled with the facts that Lewis demonstrated acceptance of responsibility by traveling to the US to voluntarily surrender (instead of engaging in a protracted extradition battle), promptly accepted responsibility through a guilty plea, and has other-wise lived a law-abiding life, weigh in favour of leniency.

“Accordingly, the Government agrees with the defendant and the Probation Office that a downward variance, in some form, is appropriate.” Mr Lewis’ attorneys had already pointed out that the billionaire and his investment vehicle, Broad Bay Ltd, are set to pay $50m in “fines and forfeiture” as a result of the guilty plea. They reiterated that this is “many times” the estimated losses of around $500,000.

Mr Lewis, in an earlier letter to Judge Clarke, wrote: “I am ashamed and deeply aware that I allowed my hubris and childish exuberance to impede my judgment. Realising my actions have violated the law and harmed those I love fills me with profound shame and embarrassment.”

Offering the court “and all those I have hurt” his apologies, Mr Lewis added: “I offer no justifications for my actions nor excuses for my behaviour. I hope my decision to immediately and voluntarily travel to the US upon learning of my indictment, and my desire to plead guilty, demonstrate my willingness to accept responsibility and acknowledge my predicament is entirely my fault.

“I have always believed I could make a difference. I wanted to find cures for diseases and genuinely help people. The proudest and most exciting event in my professional life was when a company that I had nurtured for many years discovered life-saving treatments for colon and rectal cancer.

“But I now recognise the irony of how my misguided actions undermined the laws of this nation and the very aims I pursued. It is a devastating and self-inflicted humiliation I will have to live with for the rest of my days.”

Mr Lewis will be barred from re-entering the US once his sentence is completed. His attorneys, pointing out that the losses and sums involved at $550,000 were relatively minimal when compared to the typical millions of dollars involved in insider trading cases, said: “It is also worth noting that Mr Lewis’ offences did not involve trading in any of the stocks at issue or for his own direct personal enrichment.

“This is not the case of a defendant who became rich through his offence conduct. To the contrary, Mr Lewis’ offence conduct took place in his 80s when he had ample legitimate wealth to confer legitimate benefits on people in his circle. As such, his offence conduct was senseless and deeply regrettable.”

Mr Lewis, who started out in east London’s restaurant industry, moved to The Bahamas in 1979 and is said to have made his fortune from currency trading and speculation. According to the Sunday Times’ 2023 ‘rich list’, he has a net worth of some £5.096bn, while his Tavistock Group spans 200 companies and 8,400 employees in 13 countries.

He previously owned New Providence Development Company, before exiting the investment and handing the company over to his former business partner, New Orleans-based Terry White, to focus on Albany’s development. Tavistock Group also developed the Lake Nona and Isleworth communities in Florida, and besides real estate has investments in restaurants, hospitality, energy and agriculture.

Comments

Sickened 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Note to seemingly frail old people - do your dirty deeds now - you have little to nothing to lose.

ThisIsOurs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

"This insider trading was not the result of aberrant, one-time conduct, but rather a troubling pattern of misconduct over the course of several years. In the process, Lewis’s conduct undermined the integrity of the securities markets from which he has so handsomely profited for decades.”

This sounds pretty serious. "Pattern"? "Several years"?... over the course of those years there were likely other high profile cases with people convicted of insider trading and serving jail time. To commit these acts over years is appropriately characterized as hubris. "Because when the President does it, it's not a crime". It's unfortunate but probably likely that had Mr Lewis been a black man of relatively average wealth. In ill health or not, he would probably have been jailed because justice is not blind even though she might want to be.

Baha10 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Forget age … $$$ talking … wonder how this affects his immigration status here and elsewhere … presumably $$$ will again determine. It is certainly difficult to justify a law abiding life of honesty and hard work these days in the face of such travesties of Justice when the “small” man goes to jail for smoking a joint or stealing a can of beans… anyway he will soon die a disgrace to those few who remain with an ounce on integrity.

SP 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Lewis legal team knew he was caught red handed with no escape route.

As part of the plea deal, $50M cash settlement in leu of jail time was negotiated prior to Lewis turning himself in.

Nobody with an ounce of sense would believe otherwise.

ThisIsOurs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

True. My point was had this been a person in exact same circumstances but not as wealthy or well known or phenotypically "blessed" as Mr Lewis they would have likely been sent to prison. The 50m is neither here nor there just meant to show an amount an individual "might" feel the loss of. I dont want an ailing elderly person to be jailed, so I dont even have an argument that Mr Lewis should have been, just pointing out that it's unlikely that "everyone" would have been granted this grace.

DiverBelow 3 months, 1 week ago

Pirate's World never closes in Bahamialand & Wallstreet.

ExposedU2C 3 months, 1 week ago

This billionaire crook and his co-investors in the Albany development feathered the nests of former PM Ingraham and his bagman (former DPM Watson) big time back in the day.

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