Oil consultant Jim Giffen, whose arrest 7 1/2 years ago in an international bribery case threatened U.S. relations with a key Central Asia ally, is set to return to court today for at least the 20th time, still without a deadline for prosecutors to bring him to trial.
Giffen, 69, who was arrested in 2003 as he prepared to board a flight to Kazakhstan, has denied U.S. charges that he paid bribes to leaders of the former Soviet republic to facilitate oil transactions. Giffen, an American citizen, says U.S. intelligence agencies condoned his actions or gave him reason to believe they did.
His lawyers and prosecutors are bogged down in a fight over whether the defense is entitled to see classified U.S. documents that may aid Giffen at a trial. The delay has spawned conspiracy theories from critics of the Kazakh government, which once sought to block the prosecution according to court records, and prompted lawyers outside the case to speculate whether the U.S. remains committed to it.
"It's wholly inappropriate," Michael Perlis, a lawyer at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in Los Angeles, said in an interview. Perlis helped draft the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.S. anti-bribery law at the center of the Giffen case, while at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the 1970s. "Either get your case going or get rid of it."
Giffen, who is scheduled to appear in federal court in Manhattan, worked as an intermediary in Kazakhstan in the 1990s for U.S. companies including Mobil Oil Corp. A resident of the New York suburb of Mamaroneck in Westchester County, he was charged in March 2003 with funneling $84 million to leaders of the Central Asian republic, including current President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Mobil, now part of Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp., isn't accused of wrongdoing.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Glovin in New York federal court at