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Henry T Nicholas III, the billionaire co-founder of Broadcom, has been cleared of drugs charges by a federal judge.

The US government alleged that as CEO, Nicholas' life was a non-stop party of cocaine, ecstasy, meth, valium, marijuana and prostitutes, which he distributed among friends and business partners.

A Californian judge yesterday threw out the charges, after a related securities fraud case against Nicholas unravelled two weeks ago amid claims the prosecution had improperly influenced witnesses and leaked details to the press.

District judge Cormac Carney however noted Nicholas' former bacchanalian lifestyle, saying: "From the evidence... as well as what's been attained from the pretrial services, it does seem that you had a serious drug problem.

"You paid dearly for that. You lost your marriage, you lost your job, your reputation has been tarnished, but from what I gather you've been clean and sober for two years and I commend you for that."

The colourful indictment against Nicholas, issued in October 2007, alleged he kept a warehouse for storing his various drug stockpiles. It said he spiked Broadcom customers' drinks with MDMA.

It also records an alleged incident in 2001 when the pilot of his private jet was forced to don an oxygen mask as the cabin filled with marijuana smoke.

The US government further claimed he paid off Broadcom staff to keep his debauchery quiet. The whole indictment is here (pdf).

Outside court yesterday, Nicholas briefly thanked supporters, AP reports. He has not ruled out a return to Broadcom and has said he wants to do charity work.

Prosecutors plan to appeal against the dismissal of their securities fraud case, which surrounds alleged backdating of stock options by Nicholas and other Broadcom top brass. ®

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