A New York City court has imposed stringent restrictions on British billionaire Joe Lewis as he awaits trial on insider trading charges, including keeping him off his $370 million AUD (~ $250 million USD) superyacht.
In recent months we’ve seen a string of superyacht bans, seizures and sales. Yesterday, it was reported that a second Russian oligarch’s yacht had been seized, following hot on the heels of the abandoned, seized and sold Alfa Nero superyacht which endured a seemingly never-ending saga of its own: after being abandoned in Antigua at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict before gathering extremely expensive dust for several months and ultimately enjoying a $98 million AUD sale to a tech CEO.
Now, an embroiled British billionaire has been slapped with similar sanctions as part of an ongoing trial into insider trading allegations. The 86-year-old Mr. Lewis pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail amounting to a staggering $300 million USD. However, Judge Valerie Figueredo, presiding over the case in Manhattan, ordered him to surrender his passport and took the unprecedented step of banning him from using his lavish superyacht, Aviva.
WATCH: How do you think Lewis’ vessel compares to Jeff Bezos’ $720 million beauty?
The embattled tycoon — whose family trust owns Tottenham Hotspur football club — is forbidden from travelling abroad, even to his oceanside resort in the Bahamas, with he reportedly co-owns alongside Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake. While the restrictions limit international travel, Mr. Lewis can still utilize his private plane solely for domestic business purposes.
The bail bond was secured using Mr. Lewis’ luxurious 98-meter (322 ft) yacht, along with his private aircraft. The indictment against Mr. Lewis alleges sixteen counts of security fraud and three counts of conspiracy for crimes said to have taken place between 2013 and 2021.
In response to the charges, lawyers representing Mr. Lewis — whose net worth exceeds $6.4 billion USD — strongly contested the allegations, branding them an “egregious error.” The charges level against him are comprised of several key allegations, as reported by the BBC:
- Stock Manipulation: Mr. Lewis is accused of wiring substantial amounts of money to pilots — Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Waugh — to purchase stocks in a company based on confidential information he provided to them.
- Insider Trading: He is alleged to have tipped off his “girlfriend” in South Korea to purchase stocks using insider information. Mr. Lewis purportedly used her bank account and invested almost all of her available funds in a company.
- Enriching Friends: New York prosecutors contend that Mr. Lewis orchestrated a “brazen” scheme to enrich his close friends, including his two pilots, Patrick O’Connor and Bryan Waugh, who are also facing insider trading charges.
The pilots, hailing from New York and Virginia respectively, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their bail was set at $250,000 USD each.
Amidst the legal turmoil, the Aviva has become the unexpected focal point of the court’s attention. Built in 2017 by Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany, the yacht boasts a steel hull and is powered by 2 MTU engines, reaching an impressive top speed of 20 knots, as reported by Superyacht Times. Ranked 82nd in the official list of the world’s largest yachts, Mr Lewis will no doubt be just as keen to win back the keys to his luxury vessel as he will to keep the keys from turning rather more permanently on his cell door.
As Lewis awaits trial, the court has issued a decree fit for a maritime soap opera, proving once more that not even the high seas are safe from this billionaire’s legal storm.