Fraud trial of 'Pharma Bro' Shkreli wraps up in New York

New York (AFP) –


Closing arguments got underway Thursday in the securities fraud trial of Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical executive label "The Most Hated Man in America."

The 34-year-old, who hunched over in his chair and fiddled with his hair, risks being jailed for up to 20 years if convicted of lying to investors and running a Ponzi-like scheme across multiple firms.

Shkreli allegedly stole $11 million in stock from his first pharmaceutical company Retrophin to pay off investors who lost money in two of his hedge funds.

Federal prosecutor Alixandra Smith spent nearly four hours painstakingly reviewing evidence presented at the month-long trial and walking jurors through testimony from investors in minute detail.

Shkreli declined to testify and his lawyers -- led by star defense attorney Ben Brafman, whose roster of famous clients include disgraced former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- called no witnesses.

"There's just really overwhelming evidence the defendant lied to investors," Smith, an assistant US attorney, told the jury.

"We have shown the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all eight of the crimes on which he has been charged," she finished.

Smith said the defendant lied to investors for years, chopping and changing his story depending on what he thought they wanted to hear.

To one investor out of whom he was trying to get $1 million, he allegedly lied about graduating from Columbia University.

To another, he claimed to have been too poor to graduate.

To a third, he claimed to have dropped out of college "just like Steve Jobs," Smith said.

- Jury to deliberate -

Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto is expected to instruct the jury after closing arguments, making it likely that the 12-member panel will start deliberations on Friday at the federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

The defense was to deliver its summation later Thursday.

Shkreli is charged with securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy for orchestrating three inter-related schemes to defraud investors and misappropriate assets.

Brafman has argued his client was sidelined from the company not because of corruption but because he did not fit the image of a corporate CEO.

Shkreli, the ex-boss of Turing Pharmaceuticals, is best known for increasing the price of HIV drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 overnight, earning him the label "the most hated man in America."

While that incident has nothing to do with his securities fraud trial, his notoriety was such that proceedings were initially delayed over difficulties in finding an impartial jury.

Shkreli smirked through a congressional hearing that scrutinized his actions in 2016, and has since earned a reputation for an extravagant, self-publicizing lifestyle.

He resigned from Turing shortly after his indictment in December 2015, after which he was released from prison on bond.

His Twitter account was suspended in January after he was accused of harassing a journalist, though he contended he was banned for his support of President Donald Trump.

Shortly after Trump's election victory, Shkreli leaked a one-of-a-kind album by Wu-Tang Clan, which he bought for $2 million with the stipulation that he doesn't release it commercially for 88 years.