Former Gulf Keystone boss Kozel still facing US charges

Linda J. Dodson

Former Gulf Keystone Petroleum chief executive Todd Kozel still faces criminal charges in the US over allegations that he used a scheme to defraud his ex-wife Ashley over their divorce settlement, despite his attempts to get the case thrown out.

Mr Kozel filed papers in New York in January, arguing that the money laundering and wire fraud charges should be dropped as, among other matters, the behaviour alleged did not amount to criminality.

“This court, and the federal criminal justice in general, have no interest in the dispute between defendant and his ex-wife with regard to the distribution of their assets,” his lawyers argued, adding: “There is no legal ‘beef’ to the criminal charges, and they should be dismissed.”

District judge Kimba Wood denied the request last month, however, stressing that the alleged conduct, if true, would break federal laws and the allegations were “sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss”.

The battle in the criminal courts follows a victory for Mr Kozel last year when an appeals court overturned a ruling that he should pay his ex-wife $38m (£28.6m). She had argued that a delay transferring 23m Gulf Keystone Petroleum shares meant they reached her at lower value due to stock market fluctuations.

The Florida appeals court said the lower court did not have jurisdiction. Mr Kozel maintains he met all contractual requirements for turning over the stock according to the divorce agreement. Mr Kozel stepped down from Gulf Keystone Petroleum in 2014 amid a slump in the share price, rows over executive pay and disappointing oil sales from its Shaikan field in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The company is now led by Jon Ferrier as chief executive, although he plans to retire and it is looking for a new boss.

Last week, it reported sales of $49.9m for the half-year to June, compared to $95.6m in the first half of 2019, due to falling oil prices in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Kozel’s lawyer did not return an email seeking comment.

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