Mozambique ordered to open files in Credit Suisse, Privinvest ‘tuna bond’ case


A London judge ordered Mozambique to allow access to documents held in state offices or risk derailing a blockbuster London lawsuit against Credit Suisse, shipbuilder Privinvest and others over the $2 billion “tuna bond” case.

The tuna bond or “hidden debt” scandal, one of Africa’s most high-profile corruption cases of recent years, has triggered a spate of litigation from Maputo to Washington. But the London case could establish whether one of the world’s poorest countries can secure compensation and restitution.

Judge Robin Knowles, however, told the High Court in London that Mozambique had failed in its disclosure duties, describing this as a “really serious matter”, and ordered access to relevant documents from entities such as the State Information and Security Service (SISE) and Office of the President.

“If I need to exercise my powers for strike-out to ensure compliance with the Republic’s (of Mozambique) duties and the obligations of this litigation I will because that is my duty and the fairness of the trial I wish to deliver to the Republic and all parties is at stake,” he told the High Court.

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But he stopped short of ordering a deadline ahead of a three-month trial expected in October.

Credit Suisse, Privinvest and others had called for the complex case of claim and counter-claim to be nixed if Mozambique fails to provide “adequate” disclosure within one month of any court order.

Mozambique’s attorney general has said that state secrecy prevents some documents from being disclosed.

The case turns on three deals between state-owned Mozambican companies and Privinvest – funded in part by loans and bonds from Credit Suisse and backed by undisclosed Mozambican government guarantees – ostensibly to develop the fishing industry and for maritime security between 2013 and 2016.

But hundreds of millions of dollars went missing and, when the undisclosed government debt came to light seven years ago, donors such as the International Monetary Fund halted support, triggering a currency collapse and debt crisis.

Credit Suisse, embroiled in a string of crises, agreed to pay about $475 million to British and U.S. authorities in 2021 to resolve bribery and fraud charges and has pledged to forgive $200 million of debt owed by Mozambique.

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It has said three former bankers, who have already pleaded guilty in the United States to handling kickbacks, hid their misconduct from the bank.

Privinvest has said it delivered on all of its obligations under the contracts and any payments it made were legal under Mozambican law.

Mozambique is now recovering, political analysts say. Western donors, concerned that poverty drives political instability – and with an eye on Mozambican hopes of developing offshore gas reserves on its northeastern coast – have resumed financial assistance.

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