Will Martin Shkreli be safe in prison?

The “most hated man in the US” was convicted of financial fraud - but the verdict is mild

(sda / afp) The US pharmaceutical and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, once dubbed the “most hated man in the US”, has been convicted of financial fraud. The 34-year-old got off lightly with the judgment of a New York federal court announced on Friday.

The jury rejected more than half of the charges, including a particularly serious charge of conspiracy to commit fraud using telecommunications equipment.

The sentence will be announced at a later date. After leaving the court in Brooklyn, Shkreli reacted euphorically to the decision of the twelve jury: "I am delighted that the jury has done its job," he said, describing himself as a victim of "a witch hunt of epic proportions".

With the ruling, the investor no longer faces a prison sentence of 20 years. According to his defense lawyer, star lawyer Ben Brafman, Shkreli may not go to jail at all. If so, the prison sentence will be "far, far below the length of time the government had ever considered," said the lawyer, whose prominent clients included ex-IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Stocks manipulated

Shkreli faced eight counts on charges of embezzling $ 11 million in shares in his drug company Retrophin to pay off investors who lost money through his hedge funds.

The jury found Shkreli guilty of inflating the value of the two hedge funds he had previously run - MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare Management - through stock manipulation. Five of the eight charges were dropped.

The prosecutor had spoken of "overwhelming evidence" against Shkreli. He told investors "lies about lies" for years. A representative from the Brooklyn District Attorney said the investigation was continuing and anyone who defrauded in this way would be prosecuted.

Depicted as a distraught genius

Shkreli had refused to testify at the trial, and the defense also refrained from summoning witnesses. His lawyer argued that Shkreli's wealthy investors made profits, not losses.

Brafman portrayed his client as a somewhat disturbed genius who slept in the office for two years in order to independently build a successful pharmaceutical company so that he could pay off his investors.

Shkreli may have made mistakes, but is not someone who finances an extravagant lifestyle with someone else's money, said Brafman. His client suffered from depression and anxiety.

Cheap drugs increased dramatically

Shkreli had specialized in buying the patents of cheaper drugs and then increasing the price dramatically. He became a figure of hatred in the USA because, as the head of the pharmaceutical company Turing at the time, he had willfully increased the price of the AIDS drug Daraprim by more than 50 times: the price rose from $ 13.50 per pill to $ 750 overnight . However, this scandal was not the subject of the current trial.

After his indictment in December 2015, he was released on bail from prison and had to give up his senior position at Turing. Shekri lived up to his reputation as the enfant terrible of the pharmaceutical industry when he refused to answer MEPs' questions at a hearing in Congress in February 2016.