Arrested Kiwi banker Andrew Pearse transferred $2 million worth of Christchurch property

Published by: John Anthony, Stuff.co.nz |

A Kiwi banker transferred $2 million worth of Christchurch property to a trustee firm in the lead up to his arrest for allegedly orchestrating a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal.

Former Credit Suisse banker Andrew James Pearse and two former colleagues were arrested in London on Thursday after being charged in New York with defrauding investors.

The three now face extradition to the US after an indictment, filed by prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, alleged the bankers helped Mozambique officials take on large debts for legally dubious projects.

Three former Credit Suisse employees including a New Zealander were arrested in London and charged in with defrauding investors.

The scandal has been simmering away for years with international media reports from as far back as 2016 alleging Pearse was central to helping send Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, to the brink of bankruptcy by taking on debts it could not afford.

The Panama Papers, which were a 2015 leak of millions of documents belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, first linked Pearse to a residential address in Belfast, Christchurch which had a 2016 CV of $440,000.

New Zealand property records show Pearse also owned a house in the Christchurch suburb of Merivale with a 2016 CV of $1.4 million.

Pearse transferred the title of the properties in 2017.

Both properties are now co-owned by a company with the same initials as Pearse, called AJP Trustee Services. The properties are co-owned by an individual named Nicola Frances Bell.

Andrew Pearse transferred the title of this Merivale property in 2017.
Andrew Pearse transferred the title of this Merivale property in 2017.

Bell is also a director of AJP Trustee Services with Anna Fox. Bell is also the sole shareholder of AJP Trustee Services and her registered address is the Merivale property.

AJP Trustee Services has a registered address at Christchurch law firm Saunders Robinson Brown, where Fox works as managing partner.

Fox declined to comment and would not confirm or deny whether she knew Pearse.

Stuff was unable to contact Bell.

Pearse was the head of Credit Suisse’s Global Financing Group until about September 2013, but around April that year allegedly started setting up subsidiaries with international naval construction firm Privinvest Group, which is owned by Lebanon-born French billionaire Iskandar Safa.

Subsidiaries of Privinvest have been widely reported as primary suppliers to Mozambican firms which were issued billions of dollars in loans from Credit Suisse.

The Panama Papers show Pearse was a shareholder of Palomar Holdings and Palomar Energy Holdings, both registered to tax haven the British Virgin Islands.

The US charges focus on deals from several years ago that allowed Mozambique to borrow US$2b for maritime projects and coastline protection, the indictment said.

At least US$200m of the funds were diverted for bribes and kickbacks, prosecutors said.

US prosecutors accused the banking trio of withholding information from Credit Suisse’s compliance staff.

All three were released on bail in London.

In June Swiss news website finews.com reported that Privinvest also holds a stake in Palomar.

Pearse is a partner at Palomar and helped set up a number of Palomar companies in 2013, finews.com reported.

Zitamar.com, a news website dedicated to covering Mozambique issues, reported in May 2016 that Pearse helped two companies owned by Mozambique’s secret service borrow US$1.47 billion (NZ$2.18b), which threatened to bankrupt the country after it struggled to keep up with repayments.

Credit Suisse was not named as a defendant in the indictment.

United Kingdom companies records show an Andrew James Pearse of New Zealand is 49 years old and had appointments at three companies while living in the UK.

He was appointed director of Meadowmead in 2013 and resigned in 2014. The company went into liquidation in 2016.

In 2015 he was appointed director of Discovery Capital, now dissolved, and he is still a director of BFP Properties.