A former Newsweek executive claims the fraud and money-laundering charges brought Thursday against him and Newsweek’s former parent is in retaliation for a story the magazine published about the district attorney’s botched probe into Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sex crimes.
The district attorney office calls the claim “absurd.”
Etienne Uzac, a former executive at Newsweek and co-founder of its ex-parent company, IBT Media, was one of two individuals and three corporate entities indicted in New York State Supreme Court for fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and falsifying business records.
They are charged with a scheme that raised $10 million, but instead of buying expensive computer equipment, as they claimed they would, they used the money as operational cash to keep the floundering publication afloat.
Uzac and co-defendant William Anderson, former chief executive of Christian Media Corp., pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Thursday, reports The Post’s Rebecca Rosenberg. They were freed on $250,000 bail and ordered to surrender their passports, she reports.
Uzac earlier injected Weinstein into the hearings on the same day that the DA’s office tossed out one of the counts in its sex crimes case against the ex-Hollywood mogul.
“I believe this very aggressive investigation is fueled by retaliation against me and my news media company for having uncovered that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to press charges against Weinstein after his attorney paid Vance money,” Uzac said.
“The firestorm that ensued badly bruised the DA’s office, led to his office to be investigated by the New York attorney general and almost cost him his re-election,” Uzac added.
“Within 60 days of IBT publishing the story, the DA ordered that our server room be raided. For the government to dare raid a media company’s servers no matter what the circumstances is crossing a line and a violation of the First Amendment and the freedom of press.”
“I flatly deny the DA’s allegations against me and intend to defend myself vigorously in court against what I see as government overreach and power abuse,” said Uzac.
Solomon Shinerock, the assistant district attorney handling the case, said the grand jury had been investigating for more than two years and the story in Newsweek only appeared in October 2017 — 10 months after Uzac learned he was under investigation.
“I would note that Newsweek itself has not been indicted,” Shinerock said.
“Finally, our interaction with these parties during the course of this investigation has been marked by an extraordinary lack of cooperation with court process,” said Shinerock. “The people have been forced to seek judicial oversight of basic subpoena compliance, and as indicated in the indictment, William Anderson and CMC have been charged with criminal contempt for disregarding a grand jury subpoena.”
“Although they obtained the requested financing, Newsweek LLC and Christian Media Corp. did not obtain the quantity of servers for which the equipment lenders provided funds, and any servers they did obtain were of inferior quality to the high-capacity servers called for in the financing agreements,” the indictment reads.
The parties are due back in court Jan. 16. The DA’s office said the investigation is continuing and further indictments are possible.
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