Hedge Funds Enter Credit Suisse Bribery Fight With Mozambique

Hedge funds VR Capital Group Ltd. and Farallon Capital Partners LP have filed lawsuits against both Credit Suisse Group AG and the government of Mozambique over a $2 billion debt scandal.

VR Capital, which is led by Richard Deitz, and Farallon are suing the investment bank in London over its involvement in arranging loans for a series of unsuccessful maritime projects in the southern African country, according to a legal filing that’s been made available. The two funds, which together own around $30 million of the loans, are also pursuing the government in a separate British lawsuit.

The claims are the latest in a multi-year saga of legal action arising out of deals in 2013 and 2014 to raise $2 billion for a new coastal patrol force and tuna fishing fleet in Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries. Mozambique took to the courts to pursue Credit Suisse after the U.S. Justice Department alleged the contracts were a front for government officials and bankers to enrich themselves.

Three former Credit Suisse bankers pleaded guilty in the U.S., while a sales director for the company that was contracted to provide the ships was found not guilty.

The London lawsuit is the latest from VR Capital, which has pursued a number of high-profile court actions in an attempt to squeeze a profit out of debts racked up by governments in Africa and South America. The fund bought a 25% share of any proceeds from a lawsuit stemming from a Nigerian infrastructure project that has the potential to run into billions of dollars.

Beauregarde Holdings LLP, an investment vehicle for VR Capital, bought an interest in the loan from broker Exotix on Dec. 19, 2018, the same day as a sealed Justice Department indictment was issued. Farallon’s Orobica Holdings LLC bought an interest in the loan in November the same year. Farallon previously held Mozambican government bonds before striking a restructuring deal.

The two funds allege they are victims of a conspiracy and are suing to get back their investments as well as unspecified damages.

“The members of the group invested in good faith and on the basis of legally binding agreements, but the debt has now been in default and not been paid for over four years,” said a spokesman representing both VR and Farallon.

Credit Suisse has insisted all along that it was deceived by rogue bankers and couldn’t be held responsible for their “unlawful conduct” when it arranged the loans in early 2013. The Swiss bank said it carried out its usual due diligence before the transactions and was aware of the risk of bribery and corruption. A spokesman declined to comment on the latest suit.

The funds’ involvement comes just as French-Lebanese businessman Iskandar Safa raised the stakes in the government’s own litigation against the bank by seeking to directly implicate Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi in the hidden debts. Safa and his Privinvest shipbuilding companies said in legal filings that they paid Nyusi at least $1 million in 2014 to campaign for elections he won later that year. Nyusi didn’t receive any bribes, the ruling party has said.

The attorney general didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Mozambique’s case seeks the court’s nullification of a government guarantee on a $622 million loan arranged by Credit Suisse for state-owned ProIndicus, claiming that the debt along with the rest of the $2 billion loans were all part of a “fraudulent scheme.”

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