According to the shipyard, the British High Court has granted permission to Abu Dhabi-based Privinvest to initiate a lawsuit against Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in retaliation for a $2 billion corruption scandal.
The issue concerns government-guaranteed loans raised in 2013 and 2014 for projects such as a tuna fishing fleet, with Privinvest serving as the sole contractor.
According to Mozambique and US authorities, millions of dollars have gone missing, some of it in kickbacks and bribery. The project’s boats and infrastructure rusted away, and the fleet sailed with just a little catch of tuna.
Mozambique filed a lawsuit against Privinvest in London in 2019 seeking the recovery of loans and compensation. That case and others, including a separate suit against Credit Suisse and counter-claims, are combined into a single case, which now includes a personal claim against Nyusi.
Nyusi, who became president in 2015, was defence minister when the loans were agreed. He previously denied wrongdoing and said the three state-owned companies involved were not linked to the defence ministry.
Privinvest also denies wrongdoing and acknowledges payments to Mozambican officials, including Nyusi and his Frelimo party, but said they were legal campaign contributions, not bribes.
Mozambique’s government wants to revoke its state guarantee for a portion of the loans on grounds of corruption.
Privinvest argues if the payments were bribes, then Nyusi and others would be culpable for accepting them.
Privinvest said in a statement its claims against Nyusi and others would seek to make them liable to contribute to damages Privinvest or its billionaire owner, Iskandar Safa, may be ordered to pay.
“Any litigation in London … must reflect the direct and personal involvement … of the past and present members of (Mozambique’s) own government,” Privinvest said.
Both Privinvest and Credit Suisse — three of whose bankers were involved in arranging loans and pleaded guilty in a related US case to charges including conspiracy to violate anti-bribery laws — issued claims in Mozambique’s lawsuit.
This is the first time Nyusi has been served with a lawsuit that could expose him to personal liability – a rare example of a British court allowing a claim to be filed against a head of state.
Mozambique remains on the hook for the debt, some not disclosed to donors such as the International Monetary Fund. When the full extent of borrowing was revealed in 2016, donors cut off support to Mozambique, triggering a currency collapse and debt default.