Eugene Gourevitch, a 39-year-old Berkeley-educated finance whiz, spends his days working in the library in a federal prison in Montgomery, Alabama. He’s serving a five-year sentence for wire fraud related to insider trading.

How Gourevitch ended up as an inmate is no run-of-the-mill Wall Street tale of a promising career gone awry. It’s a story so snarled that it borders on the absurd, part pulp thriller, part black comedy. And it shows what can happen when the government is stuck relying on a crafty opportunist.

By Gourevitch’s telling, in a telephone interview and to investigators, he was an accomplice or eyewitness to widespread looting and corporate bribery in the obscure former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. He even served as a bag man at times, was kidnapped and became mixed up with the Italian mob.

Tangled though his story may be, this seemingly dream informant could be the U.S.’s best hope for shedding light in a region where opacity and secrecy in government financial affairs are the norm.

“He’s a guy who seems to have landed in the right place at the right time” to become enmeshed in the regime’s affairs, said Alexander Cooley, a Barnard College political science professor who has studied the central Asian country.

Recovery Team

Gourevitch has volunteered his story to help a U.S. Justice Department team that tracks down and returns stolen money to poor countries. In May 2015, lawyers for the Justice Department, the FBI and Kyrgyzstan spent 14 hours over two days grilling Gourevitch in a conference room at the Alabama prison. Bloomberg News reviewed a copy of a transcript of the questioning.

After showing little sign of progress for at least two years, the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is moving forward with its probe to locate Kyrgyzstan assets, according to a person familiar with the matter.

But it’s unclear how much, if at all, prosecutors will use Gourevitch’s information in their efforts.

While aiding U.S. authorities in an insider-trading probe, Gourevitch said he intentionally threw a wrench into the investigation by stealing $6 million from the target’s accounts. He acknowledged that his scheme doesn’t exactly burnish his credibility with prosecutors.