Maputo — US prosecutors are investigating the role of the bank Credit Suisse in the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts", according to a report by the Reuters news agency.
The term "hidden debts" refers to the loans of over two billion US dollars granted by Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to three fraudulent, security linked companies - Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The loans were only possible because the Mozambican government of the time, under President Armando Guebuza, gave illicit loan guarantees that violated both the budget law and the Mozambican constitution. Credit Suisse undertook no serious due diligence - otherwise it would have known that the guarantees were illegal under Mozambican law.
Under normal circumstances, no bank in its right mind would lend vast sums to companies with no business record at all, and which were set up by the security services.
But these were not normal circumstances, since three of the Credit Suisse employees handling the loans - Andrew Pearse, Detelvina Subeva and Surjan Singh - took bribes to ensure that the loans went through. The bribes came from the Abu Dhabi based group, Privinvest, which became the sole contractor for Proindicus, Ematum and MAM. Despite all the evidence, Privinvest continues to insist that it did nothing wrong.
Under plea bargains with the US prosecutors last year, Pearse, Subeva and Singh all confessed to receiving bribes. They have not yet been sentenced, and so it may be that the prosecutors hope to use their evidence against Credit Suisse itself.
Prosecutors believe Credit Suisse can be held criminally liable for its employees' crimes if they were committed in the scope of their role and at least partly benefited the bank, according to one of the Reuters'sources who is a U.S. law enforcement official. They believe the plea deal, and the testimony from Pearse and Singh at the trial of Privinvest salesman Jan Boustani in New York give them evidence of the bank's culpability.
A second source told Reuters that prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York contacted the bank in February and laid out their initial case against it.
Credit Suisse has continued to insist that it cannot be blamed for the crimes committed by its employees. "Credit Suisse continues to cooperate with all investigating authorities," a Credit Suisse spokesman quoted by Reuters said.
The second source said talks between prosecutors and Credit Suisse could go on for as long as a year and the bank may fight any charges in court.
The evidence from Pearse could prove highly damaging. For he said, during his plea hearing, that he had accepted millions of dollars of kickbacks to enrich not only himself but also Credit Suisse, according to the transcript.