By Sam Tobin
LONDON (Reuters) – Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday asked a London court to uphold his immunity, while a shipbuilding company at the centre of Mozambique’s litigation over the decade-long “tuna bond” scandal tried to drag him into an ongoing high court case.
Emirati-Lebanese shipbuilder Privinvest is embroiled in a $3.1-billion lawsuit from Mozambique, which accuses it of paying bribes to officials and Credit Suisse bankers.
London’s High Court has yet to rule on the case following a trial last year. Mozambique settled with Credit Suisse’s new owner UBS on the eve of the trial in October.
Shortly before last year’s trial began, the High Court ruled that Nyusi had not been properly served with Privinvest’s lawsuit and that he was entitled to immunity as a head of state.
Privinvest wants to sue Nyusi for allegedly accepting $11 million in unlawful campaign payments from Privinvest, which says the payments were lawful.
The company says that if the court finds the payments unlawful, Nyusi should contribute to any damages it may be ordered to pay.
Lawyers representing Privinvest told the Court of Appeal on Wednesday that Nyusi had been properly served when court papers were left at his presidential palace in 2021.
As Nyusi did not claim immunity until 2023, “he was out of time … and that is the end of the matter,” Privinvest’s lawyer Duncan Matthews said.
Nyusi’s lawyer Rodney Dixon, however, said Privinvest was trying to remove Nyusi’s immunity because he did not respond quickly enough to documents “said to have been left at a security checkpoint at a presidential palace”.
The allegations against Nyusi arise out of Mozambique’s mammoth lawsuit, originally brought against Credit Suisse, Privinvest and others, over the tuna bonds scandal.
Mozambique alleges bribes were paid to secure favourable terms in relation to three projects in 2013 and 2014, including one designed to exploit the republic’s tuna-rich coastal waters.
Lawyers representing Privinvest and its late owner Iskandar Safa, who died on Jan. 29, leaving his estate as a party to the case, say Mozambique’s lawsuit is politically motivated.
(Reporting by Sam Tobin; editing by Barbara Lewis)
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