Court dismisses final claims against Howard Kennedy's client in Mozambique v Credit Suisse "Tuna bond" mega-trial


 The Commercial Court has dismissed the last remaining claim against Howard Kennedy's client in the trial between the Republic of Mozambique, Credit Suisse and other parties.

The proceedings are one of the largest cases before the Commercial Court this year, and were one of The Lawyer's Top 20 Cases of 2023.

The case involves a claim brought by Mozambique seeking to challenge a guarantee issued to Credit Suisse to secure lending of huge sums (over $2 billion) which was loaned between 2012 and 2015 to a special purpose company owned by Mozambique to fund the supply and installation of equipment and facilities for a costal defence system, tuna fishing fleet and other maritime infrastructure.  

In 2016, the lending (which had not been publicly announced) was revealed, causing catastrophic damage to Mozambique's economy. The resulting investigations revealed evidence indicating that numerous individuals, in the Mozambican state, and at Privinvest and Credit Suisse had been paid large sums and that these payments were bribes. In total, up to around $300 million is said to have disappeared. Several individuals were prosecuted successfully in Mozambique and the United States. In 2022, Credit Suisse accepted very substantial penalties (over $400 million) in regulatory action taken by the FCA, the US Department of Justice, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, on the grounds that Credit Suisse had failed adequately to protect against corruption and fraud.

In the Commercial Court proceedings, as well as challenging the guarantee, Mozambique claimed massive damages from Privinvest, the company engaged to supply the equipment and services, on the grounds that Privinvest's senior leaders were responsible for instigating the conspiracy which paid bribes to Mozambican officials and employees of Credit Suisse. 

Howard Kennedy's client, Ms Isaltina Lucas, former Director of Treasury and Deputy Finance Minister of Mozambique, had always denied any wrongdoing and was not prosecuted for or convicted of any crime. However, she was accused in the Commercial Court proceedings of receiving substantial bribes and of being part of the corrupt conspiracy. She faced judgment for huge sums if found liable.

Following a settlement between Credit Suisse and Mozambique in October, Credit Suisse's claim against Ms Lucas was stayed by agreement. Ms Lucas then secured an agreement with Mozambique that they would no longer rely on allegations of bribery against her in the proceedings against her. Ms Lucas then applied to strike out the remaining claim against her, which was a claim made by Privinvest seeking an order that Ms Lucas contribute to their liability. Mr Justice Robin Knowles CBE has now dismissed that last remaining claim on the basis that it has no real prospect of succeeding.

All claims against Ms Lucas have therefore been resolved without any finding of liability against her. 

The trial continues, to resolve Mozambique's claim for damages against Privinvest and the claim by VTB bank against Mozambique to recover part of the lending which they made.

Howard Kennedy instructed David Davies KC, of Essex Court Chambers, and Robert Winspear, of 42 Bedford Row, who acted alongside Howard Kennedy partner and barrister, Duncan Bagshaw, and with Senior Associate Solicitor Luke Barden de la Croix and paralegal Leah Mazzuco.

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