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NZ-born banker admits pocketing $70m in bribes

NZ-born banker admits pocketing $70m in bribes

A former Credit Suisse Group banker told a federal jury in New York that he alone pocketed at least US$45 million (NZ$70 million) in a massive kickback scheme and named other ex-employees of the bank he says made millions of their own.

Testifying on Wednesday, New Zealand-born Andrew Pearse recited the illicit payments he took for his role in arranging US$2 billion in loans to companies in Mozambique. Pearse, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, told the court that at least four former Credit Suisse bankers besides himself took millions of dollars in bribes from shipbuilder Privinvest Group, including two he hadn’t named before.

“They all played a role in ensuring the bank made the loans,” Pearse, 49, said in court in Brooklyn. “They provided the bank with false information about Privinvest.”

Pearse is a key witness against Jean Boustani, a Privinvest salesman described by prosecutors as the “mastermind” of a plot to defraud U.S. investors. The U.S. alleges that Mozambican government officials, corporate executives and investment bankers stole about US$200 million.

Defence lawyer Michael Schachter told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Boustani had nothing to do with the sale or marketing of loans to investors and hadn’t defrauded them. Pearse got the “sweetest of sweatheart deals” from the U.S. and was testifying against Boustani to avoid prison, Schachter said.

The Credit Suisse loans were for three maritime projects — a tuna-fishing fleet, a shipyard and a surveillance operation to protect Mozambique’s coastline. Prosecutors say Privinvest officials charged Mozambique inflated prices for equipment and services, freeing up money for bribes.

Surjan Singh and Detelina Subeva, two former Credit Suisse bankers who Pearse said were involved, will also testify for the government, lawyers said. Both have pleaded guilty.

In addition to Singh, Subeva and Pearse himself, a pair of former Credit Suisse colleagues who introduced Privinvest to the bank — Said Freiha and Adel Afiouni — made a multimillion-dollar profit after Privinvest paid more than US$10 million for a company they established while working at the bank, Pearse told jurors.

“The defendant told me they were silent partners with him,” Pearse said. When asked if both men were at Credit Suisse at the time, Pearse replied, “Yes, that’s why the defendant described them as ‘silent.'”