‘I Just Gave My Money to Credit Suisse,’ Says Billionaire
The Georgian billionaire suing an offshore Credit Suisse Group AG subsidiary for fraud was accused in court of downplaying his knowledge of the firm’s life insurance policies when he said he just left it up to the company to handle his investment.
On Bidzina Ivanishvili’s third and final day of testimony over his losses, Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) Ltd.’s lawyer Steven Thompson began by asking him if he knew how such products worked in general and that he was free to pay in or withdraw lump sums from the $755 million he invested.
“What I know today is that Credit Suisse lost my money,” Ivanishvili said via a weblink from Georgia to the courtroom in Bermuda. “I just gave my money to Credit Suisse and I never knew” that one could pay lump sums in or take out money, he said.
“I suggest to you Mr. Ivanishvili that that isn’t true,” said Thompson. “I find that hard to believe,” he said twice in response to the Georgian’s initial replies.
The trial, which wraps up its first week on Friday, has been dominated by a war of words between lawyers for CS Life and Ivanishvili, who’ve suggested the former prime minister of Georgia has downplayed his involvement in his investment decisions and misrepresented himself as a naive investor.
Ivanishvili is suing CS Life for failing to stop rogue banker Patrice Lescaudron from allegedly losing $400 million of his fortune when, he says, clues about his crimes had become apparent. Lescaudron was convicted of fraud in 2018 for faking orders and forging signatures to cover holes in his clients’ portfolios, primarily with money from Ivanishvili’s accounts.
Narinder Hargun, the judge overseeing the trial, twice challenged Thompson about where he was going with his line of questioning after the lawyer repeatedly asked Ivanishvili about dates and details of documents he signed in 2015, including the initial complaint against Lescaudron in December of that year.
Lescaudron was a lone wolf who hid his misdeeds from colleagues and superiors, the Zurich-based bank has consistently said. CS Life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Credit Suisse, which declined to comment for this trial.
George Bachiashvili, Ivanishvili’s business manager, took the stand later on Friday. While Bachiashvili said he had an MBA and considered himself financially literate, he said that Ivanishvili instructed him to liaise with Credit Suisse, not get involved in the management of the assets.
“My responsibility was to relay the results and to not monitor the investments or mandates,” said Bachiashvili. “At no point was it suggested by the bank that Mr. Ivanishvili or I should be managing things.”
“In hindsight, doing it all over again, knowing what I know, I would have checked every single investment,” he said.
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