February 9, 2018 / 9:23 AM / in 8 months

Former Credit Suisse 'star' gets five years in jail for fraud

GENEVA (Reuters) - Former Credit Suisse wealth manager Patrice Lescaudron was sentenced to five years in prison by a Geneva court on Friday for abusing the trust of clients and creating a fraudulent scheme that made him tens of millions of Swiss francs.

Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa stands outside the courthouse after the verdict of the trial of Patrice Lescaudron a Credit Suisse banker in Geneva, Switzerland, February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The 54-year-old Frenchman appeared in court for the verdict wearing a grey fleece sweatshirt emblazoned with Ferrari, the name of the sports car he purchased with the money he amassed.

Judge Alexandra Banna said the former banker was guilty of serious fraud and forgery in his handling of former clients, including former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Russian oligarch Vitaly Malkin, over an eight year period.

Reading the three-judge tribunal’s verdict, she said he had caused losses totaling 143 million francs ($152 million) and made personal gains of 30 million francs.

The adviser was “considered as a star” on the bank’s Russia desk, but had “fooled the bank and the client” through a fraud in which he “copy-pasted signatures on documents so as to falsify transfer orders,” Banna said.

Lescaudron admitted in court to having falsified trades and hidden mounting losses.

CRIMINAL ENERGY

Lawyers for billionaire Ivanishvili said fraudulent activities by the adviser lost the former Georgian leader hundreds of millions of dollars.

Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) said on Friday it was satisfied with the verdict. “However, we will run a careful review and assess whether an appeal is made for technical reasons,” the bank said in a statement.

The Zurich-based bank has said Lescaudron violated internal rules and Swiss law and worked to conceal this from the bank.

“Two years of criminal investigation have not revealed any indication that the former relationship manager was helped with his criminal actions by other Credit Suisse employees,” the bank said in January.

Lawyers for Ivanishvili have alleged Lescaudron was not a lone wolf, saying senior management had knowledge of his activity and the bank did not take action, but instead continued to charge commission payments on the products sold. They said in August that Ivanishvili was suing Credit Suisse.

Prosecutor Yves Bertossa told reporters on Friday he would not comment on the bank’s role in the matter because it was the subject of a parallel procedure.

Lescaudron’s sentence matched what prosecutors had sought.

VAST FORTUNES

Lescaudron amassed personal wealth of 32 million francs, including houses in Switzerland and the Italian seaside resort of Porto Cervo, and a Picasso lithograph.

His assets, including the Ferrari, a Rolex watch and jewels that the judge said had been financed by his crimes, were seized among items listed in a seven-page sequestration.

He was ordered to make repayments totaling more than $130 million, but was not barred from future work in banking.

The Porto Cervo house was seized, but the Lescaudrons were allowed to keep their family home in Arzier, Switzerland.

Lescaudron has already spent two years in pre-trial detention, where the court heard he cooperated on the case and exhibited “exemplary behavior.”

“The sentence is very harsh,” Lescaudron’s lawyer Simon Ntah said, adding he hoped the sentence would be commuted for good behavior so Lescaudron could be released in April 2019.

($1 = 0.9389 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields, Catherine Evans and Mark Potter

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