Jean Boustani, a Lebanese salesman in the shipbuilding industry, was found not guilty by a Brooklyn-based federal jury, acquitting him of charges of money laundering and fraud pertaining to a number of debt-backed business deals in Mozambique worth upwards of $2 billion. The verdict, delivered on Monday Dec. 2, 2019, also gave a victory to Privinvest and its owner, Lebanese businessman Iskandar Safa.
Boustani, an executive of Privinvest Group, a major shipbuilding company based in Abu Dhabi, has been cleared of any wrongdoing related to debts raised in contracts between Mozambique and his employer.
But Boustani and Privinvest have been proven innocent of any irregularities in the financing of the deal and had no involvement in it.
Boustani was one of eight people to be indicted by the Justice Department but was the only one to stand trial. Three bankers from Credit Suisse AG pled guilty to financial wrongdoing. Mozambique’s former Finance Minister Manuel Chang faces charges of fraud in both countries and awaits a ruling on his extradition. Last January, Boustani was detained in the Dominican Republic, where he was on holiday, arrested and jailed in Brooklyn awaiting trial.
Privinvest called Boustani’s arrest the result of “U.S. government overreach,” and the jury overseeing the case agreed. Federal prosecutors alleged that relevant business dealings moved money into New York-based bank accounts and utilized waterways around Manhattan – a technicality that Boustani’s attorney used to help prove that the federal government’s case was inappropriate and baseless.
With the case proven to be out of American jurisdiction, jurors were quick to realize, much as Boustani’s attorney Michael Schacter said in his opening statement, that the United States had no business acting as the world’s policeman.
Furthermore, after seeing a massive number of documents pertaining to the case, including text messages, data from Privinvest’s own servers contracts, and financial records, jurors concluded that Boustani was not attempting to defraud investors or commit acts of bribery, but instead bring in lucrative business for Privinvest that would benefit Mozambique upon completion.
After his acquittal, Boustani and his attorneys thanked U.S. District Judge William Kuntz, who oversaw his case, and Boustani said he was grateful for and relieved by the verdict.