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Mozambique-Related Trial Lacks American Victims – Casey Torres


In a Brooklyn federal court, the U.S. government alleges that Jean Boustani, a Lebanese executive, took part in conspiracies to defraud American investors, launder money and commit wire fraud. But conspiracies require victims. Conspiracies are organized efforts to break the law in ways that harm others.

The Boustani trial has attracted a lot of attention over this issue. Why would the sale of ships, built in Europe by a Middle East-based manufacturer to an African nation, be of any interest in the U.S.? In addition, the $2 billion in contracts were financed by loans from Swiss and Russian banks. The only contact with the U.S. was when the debt was resold later and the transactions interested U.S. analysts and became an accounting entry for U.S. correspondent banks. Where exactly are the U.S. investors that the prosecutors say were hurt by Boustani?

“This is a murder trial while the ‘victim’ is still alive,” Boustani attorney Randall Jackson said in court last week.

The risks of investing in developing countries’ debt were well known and disclosed in securities documents. Also, Boustani had nothing to do with the decision by Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank that financed the sale of ships to Mozambique, to re-sell the debt, according to testimony. Boustani said he wasn’t involved in the marketing of the debt at all.

Prosecutors suggested that Mozambicans were victims because they had to repay the debt. But the ships that Boustani’s employer Privinvest sold to Mozambique were delivered. Unfortunately, the fishing fleet and a coastal security equipment and systems sit unused in Mozambique, making none of the revenue that they were supposed to produce.

Every “victim” scenario in this case falls apart upon close examination — except maybe for one. The defendant himself looks like a victim of what attorney Jackson called “an insane an arbitrary abuse of U.S. prosecutorial power.” The case has been concluded and is now in front of the jury in New York.

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