British billionaire Joe Lewis has pleaded guilty to U.S. insider trading charges after being accused of a scheme to enrich friends and associates. Lewis, 86, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. He apologized to the judge for his conduct and expressed embarrassment over his actions.
Lewis, whose family trust controls the majority of the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, was charged with passing inside information to his private pilots, friends, personal assistants, and romantic partners. This enabled them to make millions of dollars in profit. Lewis acknowledged that he knew his actions were wrong.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 28. Lewis's lawyer, David Zornow, stated that Lewis can appeal if he receives a prison sentence.
In addition to Lewis, his pilots Patrick O'Connor and Bryan Waugh were also charged and pleaded not guilty. Broad Bay Ltd, a Bahamian entity owned by Lewis, also pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $50 million fine. The entity will also be on probation for five years. Lewis and his companies will be required to resign seats they control on the boards of U.S. companies.
Lewis, who is worth an estimated $6.2 billion, started his business career by taking over his father's pub in London's East End. He later founded the investment firm Tavistock Group and moved to the Bahamas, known for its low tax rates.
Lewis's bail restricts him from traveling outside the United States, boarding his yacht, or using his personal aircraft, except for court hearings. His sentencing coincides with the sentencing of another Bahamas billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of stealing billions of dollars from customers.
Prosecutors have accused Lewis of obtaining inside information about companies he had invested in and tipping off friends and associates. He allegedly hid the size of his holdings in one company by using a trust and a shell company registered under his granddaughter's name.
A spokesman for Lewis stated that he did not engage in improper trading in his own accounts.