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Ex-Credit Suisse banker says he hid US$45m worth of bribes

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Former Credit Suisse Group banker Andrew Pearse told a jury in Brooklyn, New York, that he pocketed at least US$45 million in illicit payments for his role in the arrangement of loans worth US$2 billion to companies in Mozambique.

[NEW YORK] Former Credit Suisse Group banker Andrew Pearse told a jury in Brooklyn, New York, that he pocketed at least US$45 million in illicit payments for his role in the arrangement of loans worth US$2 billion to companies in Mozambique.

Pearse, 49, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy, testified that at least four other Credit Suisse bankers also took millions of dollars in bribes from shipbuilder Privinvest Group.

"They all played a role in ensuring the bank made the loans," Pearse testified Wednesday. "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 scheme to defraud US investors. Prosecutors allege Mozambican government officials, corporate executives and investment bankers stole about US$200 million in loan proceeds.

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Defence lawyer Michael Schachter told jurors in opening statements that Boustani had nothing to do with the sale or marketing of loans to investors nor had he defrauded them. Pearse got the "sweetest of sweatheart deals" from the US and was testifying against Boustani to avoid prison, Mr Schachter told the jury.

The Credit Suisse loans were for three separate maritime projects including a tuna fishing fleet, the building of a shipyard and surveillance operation to protect Mozambique's coastline, he said. Prosecutors say Privinvest officials charged Mozambique inflated prices for equipment and services, freeing up money for bribery payments.

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

Pearse told jurors that former Credit Suisse colleagues who introduced Privinvest to the bank - Said Freiha and Adel Afiouni - also made a multimillion-dollar profit after a company they established while working at the bank was bought by Privinvest for more than US$10 million.

"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.'"

Neither Mr Freiha, Mr Afiouni nor Credit Suisse have been charged with wrongdoing. Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse, declined to comment as did John Marzulli, a spokesman for Brooklyn US Attorney Richard Donoghue. Freiha and Afiouni are no longer at the bank and neither man returned an email sent after business hours seeking comment about Pearse's testimony.

Four Mozambican officials also got millions of dollars in kickbacks from Privinvest, and the son of the country's then-president, Armando Guebuza, collected at least US$50 million in illegal payments, according to Pearse.

"The son introduced the defendant to his father and to the ministers in the Mozambique government who were necessary for the project to proceed," Pearse said.

Ndambi Guebuza, the former president's son, once demanded Boustani pay him an additional 11 million euros (S$16.7 million), Pearse testified.

"He was living in the South of France and asked to buy a house for himself and a prostitute he'd fallen in love with," Pearse said. "He wanted 11 million euros to buy a house with the prostitute."

When he expressed surprise at Ndambi Guebuza's request, Pearse said Boustani only shrugged, saying, "It's nothing, given the US$50 million I already paid him."

Ndambi Guebuza was arrested by Mozambican authorities in February. He's fighting the charges.

Pearse continues his testimony Thursday.

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