The British billionaire owner of Premier League side Tottenham, Joe Lewis, was arrested on Wednesday ahead of a court appearance in New York on insider trading charges, US prosecutors said.
The 86-year-old Bahamas-based Lewis surrendered voluntarily after traveling to the United States to answer the charges, his lawyer told AFP in a statement.
Lewis is accused of furnishing employees and lovers with inside information for years in a “brazen” scheme that raked in millions of dollars.
The Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced on Tuesday that the Bahamas-based Lewis had been indicted along with two co-conspirators.
“The defendants were arrested this morning and will be presented later today,” Williams’s office said in a statement.
David Zornow, attorney for Lewis, said the US government had made “an egregious error in judgment” in charging his client.
“Mr Lewis has come to the US voluntarily to answer these ill-conceived charges, and we will defend him vigorously in court,” he added.
The prosecutors allege that for years Lewis “abused his access to corporate board rooms and repeatedly provided inside information to his romantic partners, his personal assistants, his private pilots and his friends.”
“Those folks then traded on that inside information and made millions of dollars in the stock market, because thanks to Lewis those bets were a sure thing,” Williams said.
The attorney alleges that Lewis passed on the inside information as a way of compensating employees or giving gifts to friends, describing the scheme as “classic corporate corruption.”
Lewis has been charged with 16 counts of securities fraud, the most serious of which carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and three conspiracy counts, which carry a maximum sentence of five years.
His two alleged co-conspirators, Patrick O’Connor, 66, and Bryan Waugh, 64, are two pilots employed by Lewis to fly his private aircraft, according to the prosecution.
Lewis is reported to be one of Britain’s richest men with a fortune worth an estimated $6 billion, building his reputation as a currency speculator in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Lewis’s holding company ENIC bought a controlling interest in Tottenham in 2001 from then-owner Alan Sugar, another prominent British tycoon.