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Lawyers for Jean Boustani, the sales executive of the Abu Dhabi-based group Privinvest, on trial in New York for crimes related to the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts”, on Wednesday called unsuccessfully for the court to acquit him, rather than put the case to a jury.
Defence lawyer Michael Schachter claimed that the US prosecutors had failed to prove the charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
“The Government has failed to prove that Mr. Boustani sought to obtain any money or property from investors”, he said, according to the trial transcript. “The Government has failed to prove that Mr. Boustani conspired to cause material misrepresentation or half-truth to be made to investors and has failed to establish any duty to disclose by Mr. Boustani. The Government has failed to prove materiality of any alleged false statements”.
He added that the prosecution “has failed to prove the elements of conspiracy to commit money laundering beyond a reasonable doubt”. It had “failed to prove that Mr. Boustani initiated a transfer of funds from the United States or that Mr. Boustani concluded a transfer of funds in the United States or that he otherwise participated in initiating or concluding a transfer of funds in the United States”.
Prosecuting attorney Mark Bini retorted that the government had put forward a great deal of evidence, including that “there was a scheme to defraud investors and potential investors in the Proindicus, EMATUM, and MAM loans and the EMATUM exchanged bond; that the defendant participated with the intent to defraud and the defendant and his co-conspirators used United States wires in furtherance of the scheme”.
Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) are the three fraudulent, security-related companies, which obtained over two billion dollars in loans from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, due to illicit loan guarantees issued by the former Mozambican government under the then President Armando Guebuza.
Privinvest became the sole contractor for all three companies, and Boustani lobbied hard to ensure that the loan arrangements went through.
Bini said the prosecution had proved intent to defraud and that Boustani paid millions of dollars to Mozambican officials. The evidence submitted by the prosecution included bank records corroborating illicit payments for former Credit Suisse bankers Andrew Pearse and Surjan Singh of around 50 million US dollars, and an email from Boustani “where he outlines 125 million dollars in 13 payments to Mozambicans, including multiple high-level officials”.
Furthermore, a spreadsheet from the Privinvest Chief Executive Officer, Najib Allam, “meticulously details bribes and kickbacks for each deal”. In total, more than 200 million dollars was diverted from the loan money for corrupt purposes.
As for claims that this had nothing to do with the United States, Bini said the prosecution “has put in a great deal of evidence of extensive use of United States wires as part of the scheme”. Those communications included “false statements, including the false loan agreements notes that lied about the use of proceeds in the payments of bribes and kickbacks; false offering circulars and a false contract signed by the defendant claiming that Privinvest would not pay Mozambican officials”.
Furthermore, the conspirators had used the US financial system, Bini said, with the government showing the movement of two billion dollars through New York City bank accounts.
Various American investors had purchased Ematum bonds or part of the syndicated Proindicus loans, said Bini, including 70 million dollars from Alliance Bernstein, six million from Morgan Stanley and 11 million from ICE Canyon.
The judge, William F. Kuntz, threw out the defence team’s motion for acquittal, and declared “the government has established clearly and overwhelmingly the basis of this case going to the jury”.
Earlier in the day, Special Agent Fatima Haque, of the Securities Fraud and Money Laundering Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), explained prosecution exhibits, including emails from Boustani, which list the bribes and kickbacks paid to Mozambican officials.
Many of them used aliases or nicknames, which the FBI was able to decipher in most cases. Thus “Chopstick” and “Pantero” were nicknames for Guebuza’s finance minister, Manuel Chang, who signed the illicit loan guarantees.
Haque said a man referred to as “A” in the messages was most likely Armando Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of President Guebuza.
“Teo” was Teofilo Nhangumele, a fixer who worked to promote the Proindicus deal. Antonio do Rosario, the senior officer in the State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE) who became chairperson of Proindicus, Ematum and MAM, was referred to as “Ross” and “Marshal”, while the then General Director of SISE, Gregorio Leao, was known simply as “DG”.
Deputy Finance Minister Isaltina Lucas, was known by the aliases of “3 Beijos” (three kisses), Esalt and Esaltina.
Of all the individuals who allegedly received money from Privinvest, only one could not be identified, said Haque. He went by the aliases of “New Man”, “New Guy” or “Nys”. Haque said the FBI “was not definitively able to identify the individual”.
The kickbacks and bribes identified by the FBI are enormous – approximately 60 million dollars for Ndambi Guebuza, over 12 million dollars for Rosario, eight million dollars for Gregorio Leao, 8.5 million dollars for Nhangumele, five million dollars for Chang, and 2.5 million dollars for Lucas.
These are the sums the FBI says it can trace. The real amount of bribes paid could be higher.Source: AIM
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