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Revealed: Ex-Credit Suisse banker in business with EMATUM ship-builder

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A senior banker for Credit Suisse who was involved in putting together the deals that now threaten to bankrupt Mozambique left the Swiss bank shortly afterwards to go into business with a key beneficiary of the deals, Lebanese businessman Iskandar Safa, Zitamar News can reveal.

This report is part of an investigation made possible by a grant from Journalismfund.eu’s Connecting Continents programme

Andrew Pearse, a New Zealander who helped two companies owned by Mozambique’s secret services borrow $1.47 billion in deals that were hidden from the Mozambican public and parliament, went into business with Iskandar Safa at the same time as the bulk of the money that he raised for Mozambique was transferred to Safa’s ship-building company in the United Arab Emirates, called Abu Dhabi Mar.

The deals have caused an unprecedented economic and political crisis in Mozambique, whose government guaranteed the loans but now finds itself struggling to keep up with the repayments of more than $300 million per year. Since the hidden loan to ProIndicus was discovered in April this year, the IMF and international donors have suspended financial aid to the country which is having to make deep cuts to basic services in order to avoid defaulting on the loans.

Pearse was involved in the initial structuring of the ProIndicus deal while in the Emerging Markets Financing Group at Credit Suisse, although he left the bank in June 2013 before the full amount of the loan was completed later that year. The EMATUM loan was arranged by the Capital Markets team and signed on 30 August 2013, after Pearse’s departure from Credit Suisse in June 2013.

EMATUM came to light in September that year when Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas sold the $850 million EMATUM loan on international capital markets, in the form of loan participation notes. EMATUM combined a fishing fleet with naval defence vessels, while ProIndicus is purely a coastal defence equipment deal, according to the Mozambique government.

EMATUM’s accounts show it transferred almost all of its money – $836.3 million – to Abu Dhabi Mar, a company wholly owned by Privinvest, in September and October 2013. Privinvest is Safa’s family holding company which operates in naval construction, maritime transport, real estate and oil and gas exploration. The rest of the money EMATUM borrowed was spent on bank fees, the company’s accounts show.

Such details are not yet available for ProIndicus, whose $622 million loan in 2013 from Credit Suisse and Russian bank VTB Capital was not sold on the capital markets. Fisheries minister Agostinho Mondlane told a press conference in Maputo on 28 April 2016 that the equipment for EMATUM and ProIndicus had come from the same supplier – Abu Dhabi Mar – in order to keep costs down.

Shortly after the EMATUM and ProIndicus deals closed in 2013, Pearse took up directorships at a number of companies owned by Iskandar Safa, all using name Palomar. In September 2013, he established Palomar Natural Resources with American oil and gas executive John Buggenhagen.

In October, he was appointed director of Zurich-based financial advisory company, Palomar Capital Advisors, and a month later took over took over chairmanship of  the company from Christopher Langford, a UK lawyer who is a director of a number of Iskandar Safa’s companies – including Abu Dhabi Mar Europe, and Abu Dhabi Mar UK.

Pearse has since been joined at Palomar Capital Advisors by another employee from Credit Suisse’s emerging markets debt team – the German Dominic Schultens. Market sources describe Schultens’ role as being to arrange financing solutions for maritime security contracts similar to EMATUM and ProIndicus for other African countries.

Leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca show that Pearse and Langford are both directors and shareholders of Palomar Holdings Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands – whose other shareholders include Safa’s ship-building company Privinvest Shipbuilding LLC, and Privinvest Holding SAL.

In Liechtenstein, a company called Palomar Invest is currently in liquidation – but offers more evidence of Palomar’s links to Safa. The company was founded in October 2013 as Privinvest Africa – a company which, according to the LinkedIn profile of one of its directors based in Nigeria, is “a major promoter of transfer of technology to Africa in weapon systems and shipbuilding.”

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CLARIFICATIONS

A previous version of this article stated that Andrew Pearse is in the pay of, and working directly for, Privinvest and its owner, Iskandar Safa. We are happy to clarify that Pearse is in fact a co-investor along with Privinvest, in Palomar.

We also said Privinvest is owned jointly by Iskandar Safa and by the Abu Dhabi royal family. In fact, “Privinvest bought out their co-investor some years ago”, a Privinvest spokesman told us.

The Privinvest spokesman told us further: “Palomar has been, will be and is a valuable part of the Privinvest group and Palomar provides its considerable skills and experience for the wider Privinvest group and also third parties.”

© 2016, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.

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