New twist as Mozambique leader Nyusi claims immunity in ‘tuna bond’ case
Privinvest and Iskandar Safa argue president should contribute to any damages they may be ordered to pay
London — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Tuesday asked London’s high court to block allegations that he accepted unlawful payments in the country’s lawsuit against Credit Suisse and others over the $2bn “tuna bond” scandal.
The tuna bond, or “hidden debt” case has triggered criminal investigations from Maputo to New York, plus a series of lawsuits in London involving Credit Suisse, shipbuilder Privinvest, its owner Iskandar Safa and many others.
Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, wants to revoke a sovereign guarantee on a loan it alleges was corruptly procured and secure compensation for other alleged wrongdoing. But the cases in London have been mired in difficulties ahead of a trial scheduled for October as Mozambique’s repeated failure to disclose key documents has threatened to derail the litigation.
Privinvest and Iskandar Safa are trying to drag Nyusi into the case, arguing he should contribute to any damages they may be ordered to pay if they are found liable to Mozambique.
Their claim against Nyusi focuses on payments of $11m they say Privinvest made in 2014 to fund Nyusi’s successful run for president and his ruling Frelimo party’s election campaign. Privinvest and Safa argue that if the payments were not lawful and they are liable to Mozambique then Nyusi should be liable to them.
Nyusi, however, says he is entitled to immunity as a sitting head of state. He was not in court on Tuesday, but his lawyer, Rodney Dixon, argued that there is “no difference as a matter of law” between someone trying to sue Nyusi in London or Britain’s King Charles in Australia.
Nyusi’s bid for immunity is the latest twist in the long-running dispute, centred on three deals between state-owned companies and Privinvest, ostensibly to develop Mozambique’s fishing industry and for maritime security.
The deals were funded in part by loans and bonds from Credit Suisse — which has since been taken over by UBS — and backed by undisclosed Mozambican government guarantees.
But hundreds of millions of dollars went missing and, when the state loan guarantees became public in 2016, donors such as the IMF halted support, triggering a currency collapse, debt crisis and years of litigation.
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