Ex-Credit Suisse banker says secret affair helped fuel $61m fraud

Former Credit Suisse Group banker Andrew Pearse admitted he got at least US$45 million for his role in arranging US$2 billion in loans to companies in Mozambique. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - A former Credit Suisse Group banker told a federal jury in New York that his decision to take millions of dollars in bribes was fueled in part by his secret love affair with a subordinate.

Andrew Pearse, 49, admitted he got at least US$45 million (S$61.4 million) for his role in arranging US$2 billion in loans to companies in Mozambique. He's the US government's first witness in the trial of Jean Boustani, a Privinvest Group salesman who's accused of defrauding US investors.

Pearse testified on Thursday (Oct 17) that while sitting by a pool at a hotel in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2013, Boustani offered him a bribe in exchange for lower transaction fees Credit Suisse would charge on a loan.

"I remember it clearly because it was the first time in my life I'd been offered a kickback," Pearse told the jury in Brooklyn.

Pearse said he was trying to leave Credit Suisse and offered not only to cut some of the fees his bankers collected in the deal, but asked for Boustani's help in setting up a new company with Privinvest's chief executive officer Iskandar Safa.

Those decisions were spurred by his affair with Detelina Subeva, a Credit Suisse banker who was junior to him, Pearse said. She has also pleaded guilty and will testify as a prosecution witness against Boustani.

Assistant US Attorney Mark Bini asked Pearse if his affair with Subeva played any role in his decision to quit in 2013. He replied he was trying to hide the "very deep romantic relationship" from his superiors.

"We were both married at the time and it was difficult to see each other unless we were traveling," Pearse said. "I wanted that relationship to continue. I wanted to leave Credit Suisse. I wanted to establish a deeper relationship with Ms Subeva."

Boustani is accused by prosecutors of masterminding "a brazen international criminal scheme" that helped one of the world's poorest countries borrow billions of dollars for dubious maritime projects, including one to ward off pirates.

Prosecutors say Privinvest officials charged Mozambique inflated prices for equipment and services, freeing up money for bribes. Mozambican government officials, corporate executives and investment bankers stole about US$200 million, according to the US

Stephen Hauss, a lawyer for Privinvest, says the company denies all wrongdoing. "Obviously Pearse has a sweetheart deal from the government to say what the government wants him to," he said.

Jurors saw records showing Privinvest made regular US$1 million deposits into Pearse's bank account in Abu Dhabi. Pearse testified he shared at least US$2 million of the payments he got from Boustani with Subeva.

Among the companies that got loans from Credit Suisse was ProIndicus SA, which was to perform coastal surveillance. Pearse told the jury that after a loan to state-owned ProIndicus closed in March 2013, he met with Safa and Boustani at the Privinvest CEO's estate on the French Riviera where Pearse secured a cut of any future loans.

"It was there that the terms of my kickback were agreed upon," he said. "It was agreed I'd be paid a fee for any further Privinvest business with Credit Suisse."

The Mozambique loans were arranged by Credit Suisse and the Russian bank, VTB Group. The money was supposed to be used for tuna-fishing operations, shipyards and the coastal security system. But those projects never happened, prosecutors said.

Pearse testified late Wednesday that Boustani told him Privinvest also paid a US$2 million bribe to Makram Abboud, a senior banker at VTB, who worked on Mozambican loans.

VTB denied Pearse's claims in a statement, calling him "a convicted fraudster" and said none of its bankers have been accused of wrongdoing.

"We have seen no evidence that Mr. Abboud or any other VTB employee received improper payments of any kind in connection with those projects," the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

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