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Enron’s trail of mess leads to former CFO

Washington, Aug. 22 (PTI): A former Enron executive has pleaded guilty to siphoning off millions of dollars and accused the energy giant’s former chief financial officer (CFO) of being the mastermind behind the scam.

Michael J. Kopper, 37, a former managing director of Enron Global Finance, made the guilty plea late on Wednesday in a Houston court and charged his supervisor, former CFO Andrew Fastow of also being involved in money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Kopper, the first Enron executive to admit to crimes, agreed as part of the deal with the justice department to surrender $ 12 million he gained illegally from Enron partnerships and by hiding debt and inflating profits.

Defence lawyer David Howard said: “Michael Kopper accepted personal responsibility for his role in the Enron tragedy. He hopes these actions demonstrate his deep regret for his own conduct. He apologises to all whose lives have been affected by what he did.”

Kopper, who indicated he will name others, faces up to 15 years in prison and could be fined up to double the amount determined to have been fraudulently gained.

But his co-operation with prosecutors will virtually ensure a more lenient sentence from Judge Ewing Warlein on April 4, 2003, according to legal experts. The justice department signalled its intent to seize more than $ 23 million in tainted funds that Kopper allegedly funnelled to others, including Fastow and his family members, and former Enron employees.

“We will chase the money into the hands of whoever got it,” a justice department official said. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which filed separate civil fraud charges against Kopper on Wednesday, said he and others ‘used complex structures, hidden payments and secret loans to give the appearance that certain entities were independent of Enron when they were not.”

Along with Fastow, Kopper allegedly helped three British bankers defraud their employer, National Westminster Bank, of more than $ 7 million in connection with a stake in an Enron-related partnership in 2000, according to a criminal complaint filed by the justice department against the three bankers in late June.

Fastow and Kopper took part in meetings with the bankers to help them further their scheme and exchanged e-mail messages and letters with them, according to the complaint.

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