$2 billion embezzled in Mozambique… What’s new?

Maputo, capital of Mozambique

Switzerland has opened a probe related to $2 billion of loans to Mozambique that were organized by banks including Credit Suisse Group AG and VTB Bank PJSC, in a scandal that has already attracted the attention of prosecutors in the U.S.

The criminal probe was opened in February against “persons unknown” on suspicion of money laundering in connection with the loans, the Office of the Attorney General said on Friday. The target of the proceedings is not any specific person or entity, the office said.

The investigation follows requests for legal assistance from Mozambique, as well as reports of suspicious activity from the Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office, according to the statement. Swiss newspaper NZZ reported the probe earlier on Friday.

Credit Suisse “is cooperating with all authorities investigating these matters,” a spokesman for the Swiss bank said.

The loans, which were granted to three state-owned Mozambican companies, are at the center of a scandal that has led to a sovereign default and an economic crisis. The debt was meant to fund a new coastal patrol force and develop a tuna fishing fleet for one of the world’s poorest countries. But the fundraising would ultimately come to the attention of U.S. prosecutors who alleged that the contracts were a front for government officials and bankers to enrich themselves. – Bloomberg

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