Over the past several years, Mozambique has been rocked by a major scandal that has contributed to the resignations of several of the nation’s government officials, the country defaulting on its Euro bonds and a financial restructuring process in an attempt to curb inflation and resolve issues with its currency.
At the heart of this scandal were three stalled maritime projects – a fleet of vessels intended to be used for coastal surveillance, a shipyard and a fleet of ships designed to be used for tuna fishing. These three projects, called EMATUM, MAM and Proindicus, cost upwards of $2 billion and were built by Privinvest, a global shipbuilder.
Though Privinvest denied any wrongdoing, company executive Jean Boustani, a Lebanese national, ended up in United States government crosshairs. He was arrested in January on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud. On December 2, Boustani was acquitted of all charges in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, N.Y., confirming the company’s assertion that “there was absolutely no wrongdoing” concerning Privinvest’s work in Mozambique and no investor fraud of any kind.
Given that these projects involved businesses in Abu Dhabi and Mozambique, as well as Switzerland-based Credit Suisse, the United States attempted to pursue this case on a technicality: that money had been moved through bank accounts located in Brooklyn, giving the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute in the Eastern District of New York.
A twelve-person jury in Brooklyn saw things differently. After being shown thousands of documents pertaining to the case, including emails, text messages and financial reports, all of which supposedly proved wrongdoing, jurors instead saw Boustani’s legitimate pursuit of major development projects in Mozambique – not a case of massive fraud.
Furthermore – and most crucially to the case – jurors did not accept the technicality upon which the prosecution built its case, leading it to all but collapse. None of the alleged crimes for which Boustani had been charged took place in the United States, nor does Boustani have any connections, be they personal or financial, to the United States in any capacity. Boustani’s attorney, Michael Schacter, made this abundantly clear in his opening statement, when he declared “The United States is not the world’s policeman.”
With the jury convinced that the federal government had no right to pursue Boustani, he was cleared of all charges and released, bringing an end to his 11 months in prison. Boustani and his attorneys were deeply appreciative of and relieved by the verdict, and thanked Judge William Kuntz for his dedication, his time, and what Boustani’s legal team has called a fair and just judgment in the case..
Source: Financial Times – US jury clears Privinvest salesman in ‘tuna bond’ trial