Credit Suisse has been ordered by a Singaporean judge to pay $926mn to former Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a final blow to the bank before UBS is expected to complete its takeover as soon as next week.
Ivanishvili, who is Georgia’s richest man, had already won a case against the Swiss bank in Bermuda last year, where he was awarded $607.5mn.
The billionaire’s dispute with Credit Suisse dates back to 2011 when he was a client and victim of a private banker who defrauded some of the Swiss lender’s most sensitive accounts.
For more than a decade, Credit Suisse private banker Patrice Lescaudron defrauded some of the bank’s clients — including accounts held by Ivanishvili and Russian oligarch Vitaly Malkin — funding a lavish lifestyle of luxury houses, sports cars and Rolex watches.
A damning report into the affair by the Swiss regulator Finma, which was inadvertently made public two years ago, found repeated warning signs, evidence of hundreds of suspicious transactions and four formal disciplinary proceedings had not been acted upon by Credit Suisse.
The bank has long maintained that Lescaudron — who was criminally convicted in 2018 and died by suicide in 2020 after an early release — was a highly successful rogue operator who worked tirelessly to hide his illegal activity from superiors and colleagues. The Swiss criminal case against Lescaudron found the bank to have been a wronged party.
A judge at the Singapore International Commercial Court on Friday ordered Credit Suisse’s local subsidiary to pay $926mn, less $79mn that it had already paid. The judge said that the sum in the Bermuda case should be recalculated so that there was no double recovery.
In a statement, Credit Suisse said it would “vigorously pursue an appeal”, adding that the “judgment published today is wrong and poses very significant legal issues”. The bank is also appealing the Bermuda judgment.
After taking into account money that has already been returned to Ivanishvili and the award in the Bermuda case, Credit Suisse expects to have to pay $500mn following the Singapore judgment if its appeal fails, according to people familiar with the matter.
A provision the bank had set aside to cover the Singaporean case is below that amount, they added.
Credit Suisse was represented in the case by Charlie Falconer, the former UK Lord Chancellor who was a close confidant of former prime minister Tony Blair. Cavinder Bull SC of Drew & Napier acted as lead counsel for Ivanishvili.
A spokesperson for Ivanishvili said: “We expect Credit Suisse to fully comply with the judgment and finally accept responsibility for its failures.’
The longstanding dispute with Ivanishvili is one of several legal battles that has hung over Credit Suisse in recent years. UBS has set aside $4bn to cover Credit Suisse’s regulatory and litigation matters.
UBS’s takeover of its Swiss rival could be completed as early as next week after it received approval from EU antitrust regulators for the deal on Thursday.
Speaking to Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger on Friday, Swiss finance minister Karin Keller-Sutter, who played a pivotal role in pulling together the shotgun marriage between the country’s two largest banks, appeared to call Credit Suisse directors and executives “arsonists”.
When asked whether politicians bore some responsibility for Credit Suisse’s downfall, she said: “You have to be careful not to confuse firefighters and arsonists. The board of directors and executive board are responsible for Credit Suisse — and not the government.”