In a significant legal ruling, a Singapore court has ordered a unit of Credit Suisse to pay Georgian billionaire and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili a sum of $743 million for its alleged failure to protect his assets. This judgment revises down the amount that had been awarded in an earlier ruling.
The decision represents yet another setback for Credit Suisse, the embattled banking giant that was acquired by its Swiss rival, UBS, in June as a measure to avert a financial crisis triggered by a series of scandals.
According to the judgment published online by the Singapore International Commercial Court, “The amount of compensation that the defendant must pay is US$742.73 million.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili had filed lawsuits against Credit Suisse in Singapore, New Zealand, and Bermuda, asserting that the bank’s fraudulent mismanagement had resulted in substantial investment losses.
In this particular case, the lawsuit was brought against Credit Suisse Group’s Singapore subsidiary, Credit Suisse Trust Ltd.
The initial ruling in May had ordered the bank unit to pay Ivanishvili a higher amount of $926 million. However, the court reduced this figure on Tuesday, taking into account an earlier settlement and aiming to avoid any potential “double recovery,” as stated in the judgment.
In response to the court’s decision, Credit Suisse indicated its intention to appeal the ruling. A spokesperson for the bank stated, “The Singapore Court’s judgment is not final, and, as already communicated in May 2023, Credit Suisse Trust Limited will pursue an appeal.”
The legal battle between Bidzina Ivanishvili and Credit Suisse has spanned several years and has primarily centered on the actions of Ivanishvili’s relationship manager, Patrice Lescaudron. Swiss authorities had previously sentenced Lescaudron to five years in prison in 2018 on charges of fraud and forgery.
Credit Suisse had initiated contact with Ivanishvili in late 2004, offering him wealth-management services shortly after the billionaire and his business partner had sold a metallurgical complex in Russia for $1.6 billion. Subsequently, Ivanishvili had agreed to deposit over $1 billion into a trust established in 2005 for inheritance planning and asset management.
However, over the course of nine years until 2015, Lescaudron was found to have misappropriated millions of dollars, a fact that came to light when his fraudulent activities were exposed, as detailed in the May judgment.
This legal battle serves as another chapter in the ongoing challenges faced by Credit Suisse, which has been grappling with the fallout from a series of controversies and legal disputes in recent years.