By ANDREW HIGGINS
DECEMBER 17, 2008, 12:14 A.M. ET
(And of course, his hair was perfect - AM)
COPENHAGEN -- At a banquet here late last month, accounting firm Ernst & Young feted a Danish software company for runaway growth under Stein Bagger, its dynamic chief executive. About a thousand guests, including Denmark's tax minister and leading business people, were there to applaud.
But Mr. Bagger, the night's big winner, wasn't there to pick up the accolade of "Entrepreneur of the Year" and two other awards. He was busy fleeing from what investigators now describe as Denmark's biggest business scam in decades.
Shortly before the banquet began, Mr. Bagger, 41 years old, vanished from a hotel in Dubai. He flew to New York, drove across America and then surrendered to police in Los Angeles. In the meantime, his award-winning company, IT Factory, declared bankruptcy. A liquidator has taken over IT Factory and is sifting through its affairs.
Sent back to Denmark Tuesday, Mr. Bagger cried and pleaded guilty before a Danish court to charges of aggravated fraud and forgery, crimes that could land him in jail for eight years, according to his court-appointed lawyer, Jesper Madsen.
"Most of his business was fake," says Jens Madsen, head of an economic-crimes unit now investigating the spectacular rise and fall of Mr. Bagger.