Millions of Swiss francs in kickbacks for Lescaudron
An investment expert giving testimony for global banking giant Credit Suisse this week said it had been only days since he had been provided with and read a report that revealed that one of the bank’s own executives — later convicted of fraud — had received approximately 30 million Swiss francs in kickbacks for the same equity positions he himself had been asked to review.
The kickbacks went to the bank relationship manager, Frenchman Patrice Lescaudron, regarding purchases of shares in Raptor Pharmaceuticals. But they were leveraged positions which led to a multimillion-dollar call on the former Georgian Prime Minister and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
He has denied authorising the transactions.
It is the fourth week of the trial in which Mr Ivanishvili is suing Credit Suisse for $400 million — the amount of the call for payment for the share options.
The trial is being heard in the Bermuda Supreme Court because the leveraged shares were held for life insurance policy accounts in Credit Suisse offshoot Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda).
The policy holder is Mr Ivanishvili.
Chartered alternative investment analyst Bruno Campana told Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, who is hearing the case, that he had only just seen the PwC report, which had been compiled for the Swiss financial market supervisory authority FINMA after the scandal broke.
Lawyer Joe Smouha, QC, asked: “You must have thought it was a little odd you weren’t provided with the report by your instructing client?”
Although Mr Campana said he did not have a view, he acknowledged later that he took the information contained in the report seriously.
“It is important to know the extent to which criminal activity has occurred on the policy accounts, and I take that very seriously,” he said.
Mr Smouha also raised the point that the former Georgian leader’s accounts were not being looked after by the bank’s management team but by the disgraced relationship manager, who the report stated was concealing transactions and buying unauthorised positions in Raptor Pharmaceuticals.
Mr Campana, who was giving evidence on the suitability of the transactions made for Mr Ivanishvili’s accounts, was questioned about defending the equity positions in light of the revelations.
“You wouldn’t try to defend the suitability of the transactions that affected kickbacks to the relationship manager?” the lawyer asked him.
The expert said he had not been aware of the frauds when he wrote his report. But he said: “I think it is important and serious. I am with you on that.”
Mr Smouha pressed the witness, saying that the report exposed “a breathtaking level of dishonest conduct and activity in regard to the client accounts”.
Mr Campana responded that he could see why this was problematic, but because he had not seen the work that had been done behind the report, he did not wish to express an opinion.
The Credit Suisse expert witness was further pressed by Mr Smouha, who put to him that if the bank’s internal controls and risk management were working properly, it should never have been possible for a relationship manager to be able to do these things.
Mr Campana said the lawyer was correct and did acknowledge that he understood there had been criminal proceedings against Lescaudron. He testified that he had read a redacted version of the judgment in the case. “I understand there were many allegations of fraud,” he said, but added he has not been instructed to write a report, which he added “might change my position”.
He testified that while he had not been instructed to write a report taking the PwC revelations into account, in the circumstances there were two components he would examine: whether the equity in question was desired as an instrument and whether the retrocessions, or kickbacks, were acceptable.
If the Raptor Pharmaceutical holdings were “undesired”, then the retrocessions would feed directly into the question of their suitability, he said.
The case continues.