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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Former Tottenham owner Joe Lewis pleads guilty to securities fraud

Joe Lewis, the billionaire and founder of the company who own Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, pleaded guilty to securities fraud in court on Wednesday.

The 86-year-old British businessman was indicted in the United States in July for “orchestrating a brazen insider trading scheme”.

This, according to U.S. officials, involved the passing of information to “romantic partners and his private pilots.”

Lewis’ lawyer had at the time of the indictment claimed the government had made “an egregious error in judgment” in charging him and promised to “defend him vigorously in court.”

Lewis pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts on July 25 and his bail was set at $300million, secured against his 98-metre super yacht and aircraft.

However, Lewis — who founded ENIC Sports Inc, the company which owns the vast majority of shares in Spurs — appeared in court in Manhattan on Wednesday to plead guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

“I am so embarrassed and I apologise to the court for my conduct,” Lewis told U.S. district judge Jessica Clarke, via Reuters.

Sentencing has been set for March with a stipulated guideline range of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment.

Lewis’ bail conditions remain in place and he retained the right to appeal any custodial sentence.

Mark Herr, who represents Lewis, said: “Today, Joe Lewis acknowledged his conduct in connection with a number of stock trades by individuals close to him.

“Mr Lewis did not engage in improper trading in his own accounts. His conduct should be viewed in the context of Mr Lewis’ long life of accomplishment and integrity.

“Soon to be 87, Mr Lewis is deeply sorry, embarrassed, and apologises to the Court, his family, and all those who have come to rely on him.”

The claims against Lewis were made in a 29-page indictment and involved one woman, referred to as “the Girlfriend”, being alleged to have made $849,000 (now £665,000) after a tip-off from Lewis about buying stock while they were staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, in 2019.

She was named as Carolyn W. Carter, 33, “a U.S. citizen who resides in the U.S. Virgin Islands”. “Carter and Lewis were in a romantic relationship from approximately 2013 to 2020,” according to a court document.

Lewis’ personal pilots — named as Patrick J. O’Connor, 66, and Bryan L. Waugh, 64 — were also charged with seven counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy.

O’Connor and Waugh were not subject to Wednesday’s pleas and were not required to appear. Their criminal cases remain pending.

The case later lagged after it emerged Lewis’ firm, Tavistock Financial LLC, had paid the legal fees for both.

Tottenham have declined to comment on the case given Lewis “ceased to be a person with significant control” of the club on October 5, 2022.

A club spokesperson said in July: “The owner of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is ENIC, with majority control held by a family discretionary trust of which Mr Joseph Lewis is not a beneficiary. The trust is managed by two independent professional trustees on behalf of its beneficiaries.

“This is a U.S. legal matter unconnected with the club and as such have no comment.”

(Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)



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