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The bandit of Baku

Renegade Czech financier Viktor Kozeny is soon to face in court angry American investors who claim he bilked them in a fantastic scheme to acquire Azerbaijan’s state oil company. From his luxury Bahamas base, Kozeny has been telling any journalist who will listen that he has few assets left to seize, while issuing wild threats to expose his accusers and even to sue the president of Azerbaijan. The ending to this colourful tale of greed and double-dealing in a wild frontier market may yet come down to dense legal arguments over trading records. Ben Beasley-Murray reports

Kozeny: "The whole
can of worms is
going to explode"

A fierce storm is blowing outside as I dine with Viktor Kozeny at the most exclusive club in the Bahamas. Like the thunder and lightning that foretell doom in a Shakespearean tragedy, it may portend the final downfall of the Czech financier. Kozeny is facing suits for over $140 million, and both his credibility and fortune look to be enormously precarious. But as oblivious to the deafening gale as he seems to be to the court proceedings that have piled up against him, Kozeny launches into one of his trademark stories. "Do you know what money actually smells like?" he asks, digging into his pineapple and seafood salad. "Fund managers love to talk about the smell of money, but few of them really know what it's like."

The smell of money

In March 1998, Kozeny flew in a private jet from Zurich to Baku, the capital of the oil-rich Caspian state Azerbaijan, accompanied by an American fund manager and $30 million in cash.

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