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A former Credit Suisse banker has pleaded guilty in the US over handling alleged kickbacks in Mozambique’s $2bn “tuna bond” scandal.
Detelina Subeva, a former vice-president at the Swiss bank’s global financing unit, entered the guilty plea on a charge of conspiracy to help launder money before a New York court on Monday.
Ms Subeva is one of three former Credit Suisse employees whom US prosecutors have indicted over an alleged scheme to loot at least $200m from loans that the bank helped arrange in 2013 for the southern African nation, one of the world’s poorest.
The prosecutors accused the trio of working with Mozambique’s former finance minister and a representative of Privinvest, an Abu Dhabi-based shipbuilder, to siphon bribes connected to the debt. The loans imploded not long after being sold on to global investors.
Ms Subeva, 37, told the court that she had received funds from a $1m kickback that another of the trio, Andrew Pearse, allegedly received from Privinvest. The US dropped other charges against Ms Subeva.
Ms Subeva’s lawyer in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The US has detained Jean Boustani, the Privinvest employee. It is also seeking to extradite Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang as well as the former bankers — Mr Pearse, 49, former head of the global financing group who went on to work with Privinvest, and Surjan Singh, 44, a former managing director at the bank. The three are fighting extradition.
Credit Suisse has said that its employees flouted due diligence rules and concealed communications from the bank.
The loans to state-owned companies were sold to investors as having helped Mozambique to create a tuna fishery and maritime security projects.
The funds raised were channelled through Privinvest, which had contracts to supply equipment connected to the loans.
However, about $1.4bn of the debt was concealed from the IMF and donors to Mozambique.
Donors cut funds to Mozambique’s government after the hidden debt was revealed in 2016 and Mozambique entered a deep financial crisis, including defaults on the loans.
According to US prosecutors, the bankers fabricated the rationale even on the one publicly issued bond for the tuna fishery, which was later turned into fully fledged government debt.
Mozambique has reached an agreement in principle with creditors on debt relief for the former tuna bond, and is close to a similar deal with VTB on a loan that the Russian bank arranged.
But President Filipe Nyusi’s government is under pressure from the opposition and civil society groups at home to repudiate all of the loans outright over evidence of criminality.
Mozambique has sued Credit Suisse, Ms Subeva and the two other ex-bankers in a London court in an attempt to cancel the state guarantee on the previously hidden loan arranged by the bank.
Privinvest, which is not a defendant in the US case, has always denied wrongdoing over the loans. Lawyers for Mr Pearse and Mr Singh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.