Kiwi ac­cused of $66m in kick­backs

Banker em­broiled in US$2 bil­lion scam lit­tle known in New Zealand

Weekend Herald - - News - Phil Tay­lor

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.

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