The jury in the Brooklyn Federal Court billion dollar fraud trial of a Lebanese banker was expected to start deliberations Friday morning after several weeks of labyrinthine testimony about bribes, kickbacks and other shady practices by a network of international wheeler-dealers,
Jean Boustani, who was a former executive of Privinvest, was charged with sending bribes and kickbacks to Mozambique government officials and former Credit Suisse bankers.
The prosecution and defense spent most of the day Thursday summarizing their conflicting scenarios of the case. The three charges are wire fraud, securities fraud, and a wide-ranging money laundering conspiracy. The government pressed down on the fact that this was a $2 billion scheme that Boustani conspired to maneuver with the help of government officials and bankers.
“Boustani helped officials open up bank accounts while the officials used falsework visas with incoherent job titles,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hiral Mehta.
Several Mozambique government officials, including Armando Guebaza, the Mozambique president’s son , made work visas that claimed they held positions in the project, the prosecution contends. Doing so, allowed Guebaza to open up a bank account in Abu Dhabi where all the illegal payments were sent. Guebaza received $55 million in bribes, according to the government’s case.
Andrew Pearse, former managing director of Credit Suisse and a star witness, was also involved in foul play, he prosecution said. Government lawyers showed images of Pearse’s work visa that displayed his job title as a tube welder. Pearse had no tube welding experience. Throughout the scheme, Pearse received $45 million in bribes, according to the charges.
Earlier in the trial, Pearse testified that he urged Boustani to not forward any personal emails to Credit Suisse. Pearse reportedly didn’t want the bank to know about the private conversations that breached his contract with Credit Suisse regarding accepting bribes.
The prosecution painted Boustani as the key conspirator because he directed the money to be sent. All the wire transfers were sent by the CFO of Privinvest, Naji Allam.
“It doesn’t matter who was sending the payments, Mr. Boustani directed Naji Allam to do so, that’s conspiracy,” said Mehta.
The defense argued that the government lacked the evidence to explain how Boustani defrauded the investors involved in the Mozambique project.
Although not able to make profit from all the loans that Privinvest took out for the Mozambique project, Privinvest delivered on all the promises they’ve made, attorney Randall Jackson told the jury in his closing argument.
“The government has tried to ask you to ignore the things that Privinvest promised,” he said. “That was an important part of the contract. What kind of con man goes through with all the things promised? Privinvest delivered all the things they said they’d deliver.”
Jackson contended that several investors didn’t fully read through the projects’ documents. They believed investors didn’t show what they thought to be an appropriate amount of urgency concerning the nature of the Mozambique project. He argued that the risks of the project were disclosed to all of the investors.
“Mozambique warned investors in the most straightforward language that they could possibly use, that it’s a country that corruption can occur,” Jackson added. “They told investors to be warned about bribery before investing,” said the defense attorney.
However, when Boustani testified in his own defense earlier in the day and he was grilled about the documents discussing payments to Pearse and other bankers, he said that he didn’t thoroughly read the documents that highlighted the payments before signing them.
“I’m not a lawyer and I trust the lawyers in Privinvest,” he protested. “When they give me a document, I sign and that’s it.”