Mozambique: Privinvest Spreadsheets Give Details of Bribes

Maputo — Part of the damning evidence on display at the trial in New York of Jean Boustani, a sales executive of the Abu Dhabi based Privinvest group, are Excel spreadsheets which, according to the prosecutors, detail a trail of bribes and kickbacks.

According to a Friday report on the trial from the Bloomberg agency, the prosecutors regard these spreadsheets, which the Privinvest Chief Financial Officer, Najib Allam, mailed to himself, not as simple business records, but as an inside view into a web of corruption. Allam has been indicted by the US prosecutors, but so far they have been unable to extradite him to New York to stand in the dock alongside Boustani.

Boustani and Allam are key figures in what the prosecutors regard as a massive fraud in which the Mozambican government issued guarantees (illegal under Mozambican law) for loans of over two billion dollars. The loans were obtained by three security-linked companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management), from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.

The loans were partly arranged by three Credit Suisse bankers, Andrew Pearse, Detelvina Subeva and Surjan Singh, who received 50 million US dollars in kickbacks. Boustani is also accused of paying off Mozambican government officials, including the then Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, and Ndambi Guebuza, oldest son of the then President, Armando Guebuza. The prosecutors estimate that at least 200 million dollars of the loan money was used for bribes and kickbacks.

Boustani's lawyers tried to keep the spreadsheets out of evidence, and out of the view of the jurors. According to Bloomberg, they argued that the spreadsheets would invite speculation from the jury because they're "riddled with acronyms and abbreviations" making them "incomprehensible" without a witness to explain.

But the prosecutors convinced U.S. District Judge William Kuntz to let jurors see the documents by arguing that Allam had used them to keep track of the bribes and kickback payments.

The speadsheets appear to back up the evidence given by Pearse, who named a variety of Mozambican figures who had taken bribes from Boustani, including Chang, Guebuza Junior, and Antonio do Rosario, the former senor security officer who became chairperson of the board of all three Mozambican companies.

One of Allam's spreadsheets, headed "Ematum" detailed a string of corrupt payments. "ArGe" (Ndambi Guebuza) recived 21 millon dollars, "JB" (Boustani) got nine million, Rosario 8.7 million and Chang five million.

Boustani's defence has relied on claims that it is normal to pay bribes in countries like Mozambique. One of his lawyers told the jury "Not all countries are like the United States. In Africa, making payments to government officials is the cost of doing business and the evidence will show that's the way it is in Mozambique."

Bribery is illegal in both the United States and Mozambique. Boustani's defence team appears to be arguing that committing crimes is perfectly fine, if that's the only way to get a business deal done.

Boustani's view of bribery is not shared by officials from the two banks involved, Credit Suisse and VTB, who took the stand to stress repeatedly that, if they had known about the bribes and kickbacks, they would never have approved involvement in the Mozambican loans.

Privinvest continues to argue that it did nothing wrong, despite Boustani's lawyers admitting that their client had made payments to government officials.

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