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Credit Suisse Sued by Billionaire in Singapore and New Zealand

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 29/08/2017

Bidzina Ivanishvili © Bloomberg Bidzina Ivanishvili Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili sued Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore, New Zealand and Bermuda, alleging the bank must have known about the actions of a former employee who forged trades to cover losses from other customers’ accounts.

Ivanishvili, an ex-prime minister of the former Soviet republic, filed the claims in Auckland at the New Zealand High Court on August 7, then in Bermuda 10 days later and in Singapore on August 25, court documents show. The lawsuits ask courts in the three jurisdictions to force the bank to hand over documents in the Georgian’s case against a Credit Suisse banker and makes unspecified claims for losses that Ivanishvili’s lawyers say they are still calculating. 

Bidzina Ivanishvili

"The full extent of Credit Suisse’s wrongdoing has yet to be established,” Adam Rooney, Ivanishvili’s lawyer, said in a statement. “It took place over several years and is strongly indicative of systemic failures at Credit Suisse. He could not have acted alone over such a long period of time.”

The bank’s compliance and auditing practices are set for scrutiny later this year when the former employee of Credit Suisse’s wealth management unit, who can only be identified as L. under Swiss law, goes on trial in Geneva. Credit Suisse has repeatedly said that, to the best of its knowledge, L. acted alone.

Credit Suisse said in a statement late Monday that it had only received the claim filed in New Zealand. “After a first review, the statement of claim does not present any new or previously unknown facts,” the bank wrote. “It is mainly based on the issues/allegations arising out of the criminal proceedings against the former relationship manager in Geneva. Credit Suisse will take appropriate action to defend the claims.”

Simon Ntah, a lawyer for L., noted that the investigation phase of the Swiss case is over. “If they had something solid they would have made those allegations already,” he said by telephone. L. who has been in jail since his arrest more than 18 months ago “has acknowledged his responsibility, wants to be judged and to move on,” Ntah said.

Broadening legal battle

Ivanishvili’s lawyers say they are broadening the legal battle to countries where Credit Suisse had units through which L. invested.

In the Singapore and New Zealand proceedings, Ivanishvili is claiming losses incurred because bank allegedly abused his trust and because "trustees failed to monitor what the bank was doing," according to the statement. The Zurich-based bank took large commission payments from the unauthorized investment of capital in Credit Suisse products, Ivanishvili’s lawyers allege. The Bermuda claim alleges “breaches of duty owed by Credit Suisse’s Bermuda insurer” including “the failure to ensure the prudent investment of premiums.”

Ivanishvili’s former lawyers have argued that the Georgian businessman lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the case, which has also attracted at least five other plaintiffs from Russia including former Russian senator Vitaly Malkin.

Geneva Prosecutor Yves Bertossa issued an indictment against L. in June after spending more than a year hearing from witnesses and the banker himself about how he was able to carry on the unauthorized trading for years. The trial is scheduled to start in late November though it could be delayed.

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