Mon, 02 Oct 2023

ZURICH, Switzerland: In one of the largest legal awards ever against Credit Suisse, the bank was ordered to pay $926 million to Georgia's former prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, for losing part of his fortune.

In the latest blow to the troubled bank, being taken over by UBS, Singapore's International Commercial Court said a unit of Credit Suisse had not acted in good faith and neglected to keep Ivanishvili's assets safe.

Credit Suisse immediately said it would appeal the decision.

Billionaire businessman Ivanishvili, who was Georgia's prime minister from 2012 to 2013, had placed $1.1 billion under the custodianship of Credit Suisse Trust in 2005, the court heard.

In its judgment, the court said the bank had failed to safeguard Ivanishvili's assets by preventing Patrice Lescaudron, an adviser at Credit Suisse Trust in Singapore, having access to them.

Lescaudron was convicted by a Swiss court in 2018 of forging signatures of former clients, including Ivanishvili, over an eight-year period. "It is not accepted that the defendant's conduct was reasonable," Judge Patricia Bergin said in a written judgment.

"It preferred the importance of Mr Lescaudron in retaining the big client, the plaintiff, with the Credit Suisse organisation, to the compliance with its core obligation of keeping the Trust assets safe."

Credit Suisse knew Lescaudron had breached regulations designed to prevent fraud and had waited for up to two years for a response from him when questioned, Bergin said.

"Its tolerance of these flagrant breaches was not in good faith and was unreasonable," Bergin added.

The $926 million to be paid by Credit Suisse will be reduced by $79 million it had already paid in December.

"The judgment published today is wrong and poses very significant legal issues," Credit Suisse said in a statement. "Credit Suisse Trust Limited intends to vigorously pursue an appeal," it added.

The bank is also appealing against another judgment related to its management of Ivanishvili's assets.

A Bermuda court ruled in March 2022 that Ivanishvili and his family are due damages of some $600 million from Credit Suisse's local life insurance arm.

A spokesman for Ivanishvili welcomed the Singapore decision.

"We expect Credit Suisse to fully comply with the judgment and finally accept responsibility for its failures."

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