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Credit Suisse case swamped in paper

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Paper chase: A tram passes the Credit Suisse Group AG headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Global banking giant Credit Suisse supplied complex and extensive accounts statements as physical copies to its own expert witness – and would not provide them in a more efficient and manipulable electronic format.

The situation facing the financial specialist was revealed during his cross examination in the final days of testimony in a trial pitting Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) against Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The banking giant’s offshoot is defending itself against a $400 million lawsuit brought by Mr Ivanishvili.

He is a former Prime Minister of Georgia, a country at the crossroads where Europe meets Asia.

He brought the lawsuit after he received a call on his Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) life insurance policy accounts for the stunning nine-figure sum.

He has vigorously denied authorising the leveraging activity that resulted in the demand for payment.

The case is being brought in Bermuda because it involves unit-linked policy accounts in the Bermuda-based insurance company. These insurance policies are allowed through Bermuda law and provide for investments to be managed via the policy accounts, and for deposits and withdrawals to be made.

Investigations following the 2015 call revealed that rogue Credit Suisse banker Patrice Lescaudron, the oligarch’s then relationship manager, had been engaged in fraudulent behaviour for more than five years.

They say he diverted millions to pay for what the Financial Times described as a “lavish lifestyle of luxury houses, sports cars, Rolex watches and gifts of Chanel jewellery.”

The bank’s own internal security and compliance executives had expressed concerns about the activities of the banker on multiple occasions before the call on the oligarch’s accounts.

Lescaudron was imprisoned for his crimes and later committed suicide.

Shares in a drug development company, Raptor Pharmaceuticals, purchased or leveraged for Mr Ivanishvili’s policy accounts, are the main source of contention between the warring parties in this case.

It has emerged in earlier testimony that the banker received millions of Swiss francs in kickbacks for sales of these shares.

The last days of testimony have revealed that the global banking offshoot had delivered to their own expert, economic and financial consultant Mark Bezant, hard copies of the information he had been asked to analyse and use for complex financial modelling.

He testified last week that this meant he was unable to provide as much in-depth analysis as he would have been able to do, if he had been provided the information electronically.

He was one of four forensic financial experts testifying last week who were tasked with complex financial analyses of the policy accounts.

Financial modeller Will Davies, hired by the tycoon, complained about the complexity of the task he had been set during his cross examination.

In modelling the alternative scenarios for Mr Ivanishvili’s accounts to see the impact of the Raptor positions on them, as well as holdings in other equities under the microscope for inappropriate trading, Credit Suisse witness Mr Bezant admitted: “If it is available in electronic form, it would be helpful to have it.”

Joe Smouha, QC, representing Mr Ivanishvili, pressed the expert about his own efforts to be given access to the files electronically, describing that as being “in the form you would usually expect to be provided”.

Mr Bezant said: “I asked if it was available electronically. I was asked to work in the physical form.”

Later, under further questioning on the point, he admitted it must have existed electronically at some point, but in a testy exchange, he repeated: “I have it in its physical form.”

While the expert for Credit Suisse agreed there were “some gaps” in the information that had been made available to him, he said: “I was dealing with the information I understood to be available.”

Mr Smouha revealed a further issue in this complex case when he asked the forensic expert about unauthorised transactions of shares that Lescaudron admitted moving between Mr Ivanishvili’s policy accounts and other clients’ accounts, some of which were overvalued and others undervalued, which the banker had admitted he had done to mask losses.

The case moves into its final stages today.

Buried in paper: Credit Suisse provided voluminous accounts to expert witness in paper, not electronically (File photograph)

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Published December 13, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated December 13, 2021 at 7:39 am)

Credit Suisse case swamped in paper

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