Privinvest Salesman Takes Stand in Mozambique Corruption Trial
19 Nov 2019

For six weeks Jean Boustani, a Lebanese salesman at a shipbuilding company, sat quietly in a New York court as prosecutors summoned 20 witnesses to support charges he defrauded U.S. investors in a $2 billion Mozambican kickback scam.

On Monday, Boustani began to tell his side of the story to the jury, something many lawyers generally advise against because it exposes their clients to cross-examination.

Speaking quietly and wearing a white, dress shirt, gray slacks and a navy zip-up sweater, Boustani, 41, told the jury that to steer business projects in the Middle East and Africa, you need agents.

“If you have to deal with the government, you need to get deal makers, usually you have brokers, middlemen — in America maybe they’re called lobbyists — to open doors, to secure for them the licenses, concessions, to execute the project,” he said. “I was primarily seeking to find agents to develop business in Africa.”

But U.S. prosecutors argue Boustani paid tens of millions of dollars to secure business. Jurors were shown hundreds of emails and documents which prosecutors say are a “meticulously detailing of bribes and kickbacks,” that Boustani and the shipbuilder, Privinvest Group, paid out.

Boustani is one of eight people who U.S. prosecutors say created maritime projects in Mozambique to funnel bribes and kickbacks. Three have pleaded guilty and four others aren’t in U.S. custody.

The government says that Privinvest paid $150 million to Mozambican officials and another $50 million in kickbacks to Credit Suisse Group AG bankers who helped obtain financing for the loans.

By Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg, 18 November 2019

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