THE conspiracy case against Lebanese boat salesman Jean Boustani in New York has mixed confusion with issues of credibility as a second key witness for the prosecution testified. The trial involves the $2bn debt problem that has been plaguing Mozambique the last few years.
Three former Credit Suisse bankers – Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh – have been charged by US prosecutors with alleged fraud and receiving kickbacks in connection with Mozambique’s $2bn ‘tuna bonds’ hidden loans scandal.
The charges stem from a 2013 deal for Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, to borrow from international investors ostensibly to fund maritime projects, including a state tuna fishery, ahead of investments in offshore gas. The loans were partly concealed from the International Monetary Fund and donors before they collapsed and sparked a financial crisis amid signs that the projects were suspect.
Surjan Singh, who had earlier pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count, told the judge and jury that he didn’t ‘recall’ more than 24 times during cross examination. At times, Singh couldn’t even refresh his memory after seeing his own prior statements.
Singh’s income was $1 million or more a year, but he couldn’t recall that fact until he was pressed.
Singh also couldn’t remember whether he had switched his story about who actually had been the source of a million dollars in extra money that he had received. He told prosecutors one thing one day and then switched his story on another day.
Singh apparently told the government that a payment he received came from Andrew Pearse, another alleged conspirator in the case (like Singh), and Singh’s former boss at the bank. But not anymore.
Likewise, Singh’s memory failed him when asked about his prior testimony to UK regulators at the Financial Conduct Authority (FAC). He said he couldn’t recall if he had to correct his testimony because he had ‘left certain things out’.
As for the ‘accuracy’ of that testimony, Singh said: ‘My testimony to the FCA was accurate to the questions that they asked me.’ Not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Singh also didn’t remember that he had been named as ‘executor’ of Pearse’s estate. Indeed, the two men had been so close that Pearse used to call Singh ‘uncle’. Yet when Singh was shown a copy of Pearse’s will, it barely jogged his memory.
But then again, Singh couldn’t exactly recall whether he had threatened to tell Pearse’s wife about Pearse having an affair with another co-worker at the bank, at least not at first. In the same sentence, literally, both denied making the threat and saying that he didn’t recall.
It may be that a bad memory is the least of the prosecution’s problems. In a surprise, a third top government witness, Detelina Subeva, isn’t scheduled to testify.