Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

New York — Former Credit Suisse Group banker Andrew Pearse’s seven days on the stand in the US bribery trial of a salesman for shipbuilder Privinvest Group concluded with a blistering attack on his credibility.

Pearse is the main government witness against Jean Boustani, who is accused of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks tied to $2bn in loans to Mozambique-owned companies.

He told jurors that he took $45m from Boustani to arrange the loans and shared the money with two of his colleagues: his paramour, Detelina Subeva, and Surjan Singh, his successor at the bank. Subeva and Singh have pleaded guilty and could testify at the trial.

Hoping to keep his affair with Subeva going, Pearse said he left Credit Suisse in September 2013 to set up Palomar Capital Advisors — a financial advisory business. Palomar was a partnership with Boustani and Privinvest’s CEO Iskandar Safa, Pearse said, with each owning a third.

However, Michael Schachter, a lawyer for Boustani, said his client had no stake in the company and confronted Pearse with documents that showed Pearse owned 33.3%, while Safa and Safa’s brother, Akram, owned 65.9%. Akram’s wife owned the rest, Schachter said.

“You testified more than 15 times during the course of your direct examination that Jean Boustani was either an owner or a partner in Palomar Capital Advisors, did you not?” Schachter asked Pearse.

“I don’t know the number of times, sir,” Pearse replied.

“And that was all false testimony, wasn’t it?” Schachter asked.

“It was the best of my understanding and belief,” Pearse said.

“You don’t see Mr Boustani’s name on this ownership structure chart, do you?” the lawyer asked.

“I do not sir,” Pearse said.

Privinvest has denied wrongdoing and accused Pearse of lying on the stand.

“Pearse has been willing to say anything to protect himself including repeating the false claim that Jean Boustani was a partner in Palomar,” Privinvest said in a statement. “Pearse is trying to save himself by spinning lies about Mr Safa and Privinvest because that is what the government wants him to do.”

Pearse’s lawyer, Lisa Cahill, declined to comment after court.

Boustani is accused by prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, of defrauding US investors. The US alleges that Mozambican government officials, corporate executives and investment bankers stole about $200m. Boustani made at least $15m in the scheme, prosecutors said.

He is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, borrowed billions of dollars for maritime projects. Prosecutors say Privinvest officials charged Mozambique inflated prices for equipment and services, freeing up money for bribes. Foreign aid for the southern African nation was suspended and it defaulted on its debt in 2017.

Pearse, who testified he has to forfeit the $45m, was asked if he attempted to hide assets from the US after his arrest in January by transferring more than $267,000 to his wife.

“That, I don’t recall,” Pearse said.

“The prosecutors have not charged you with obstruction of justice for trying to hide assets?” Schachter asked.

“They have not,” Pearse said.

Bloomberg