Kiwi accused of $66m in kickbacks
Banker embroiled in US$2 billion scam little known in New Zealand
A New Zealander accused of personally receiving US$45 million ($66.3m) in kickbacks — the largest sum of any of seven people charged in an alleged US$2 billion scam — left a light footprint in New Zealand before joining a leading world bank.
Christchurch-born Andrew James Pearse is one of a trio accused of manipulating their senior positions at Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse. US prosecutors claim they duped the bank, Mozambique’s Government and the International Monetary Fund by creating maritime projects “as fronts to enrich themselves”.
At least $200m in bribes and kickbacks is alleged to have been diverted to themselves, Mozambican officials and others. A former finance minister, arrested last week, is accused of fraudulently committing Mozambique to guaranteeing loans.
Pearse was arrested in London about the same time and is on bail pending an extradition application to face charges in the US.
Described as the head of Credit Suisse’s “global financing group”, Pearse is portrayed by prosecutors as one of the central figures in the case.
Little is known of Pearse’s background in finance in New Zealand.
None of the main universities has a record of him graduating. Inquiries among Kiwis with associations with Credit Suisse drew a blank.
“The guy is a bit of a mystery,” said one investment banker who did not want to be named. “Seldom do you find in a situation like this where no one in the industry knows of him.”
Property records show Pearse shared in the ownership of residential property in Belfast, Christchurch, with a CV of $440,000, and a Merivale home with a 2016 CV of $1.4m.
Ownership has been transferred to a company whose title matches his initials, AJP Trustee Services, and a Nicola Frances Bell. Bell is listed as a director and sole shareholder.
Birth and other records indicate Bell is Pearse’s sister. When the Weekend Herald visited the Merivale property, a man said Bell did not want to speak about her brother.
Electoral information indicates Pearse’s mother lives at the Belfast address. She was not home when the Weekend Herald called.
Pearse was born in Christchurch at St George’s Private Hospital in 1969, the second child of Jill and John Pearse. The couple’s first child was born in 1967 and named Nicola Frances Pearse.
The birth certificate of Andrew James Pearse records he was given the middle name of his father, John James Stedman Pearse. Pearse Snr is listed on the certificate as a clerk born in Bombay, India, in World War II.
No occupation is entered for his mother, Jill Fenwick Pearse (nee Stevenson) but she was recorded 11 years later on electoral rolls as “wife”. The father’s occupation was still listed at that time as “clerk” and they were living in well-to-do Fendalton.
And then John James Stedman Pearse vanishes from the records. A search found no record of him in the registers of Christchurch cemeteries.
At some point, his son left for London and rose to a senior level at one of the world’s most prominent banks. He is now accused of a rort which when exposed saw the value of Mozambique’s currency halve and still threatens to bankrupt it.
He and two colleagues are accused of sidestepping bank anti-corruption safeguards by withholding information, faking a tender process and using personal email accounts. Credit Suisse was not named as a defendant in the indictment.
Nearly all of the US$2b was paid to a company, Privinvest, which Pearse also allegedly began working for.
In April 2013, he opened a bank account in Abu Dhabi into which more than US$45m in “bribe and kickback payments” was transferred by Privinvest, according to the indictment filed in New York’s Eastern District Court last month.