After six weeks of courtroom arguments and counter-arguments, Privinvest Group executive Jean Boustani has been cleared of all charges related to the so-called tuna bond trial. Formally cleared of all wrongdoing, Boustani is now a free man and able to continue conducting business in his area of expertise.
The case filed against Boustani was no small matter. It placed him at the center of the Mozambique debt fraud trial. If the jury were to believe prosecutors, Boustani was the point man for a scheme in which $2 billion was loaned and bribes were paid to Mozambique officials and others. Boustani was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud and launder money.
The U.S. Federal prosecutors were unsuccessful in establishing that Boustani was guilty of these charges. Instead, the jury fully cleared Boustani of all charges against him and he walked free.
Boustani’s successful defense relied largely on two main arguments, one of which he personally made while spending three days being examined and cross-examined on the witness stand.
Frist and as Boustani himself explained under oath, the payments he made were in fact not bribes. Instead, they were success fees paid to gain access to Mozambican officials. Without these fees, Privinvest wouldn’t have been able to speak with these officials.
Second and perhaps more importantly for other cases, Boustani’s legal team firmly established that U.S. prosecutors were overstepping the boundaries of their authority by policing a contract that took place on the other side of the world. Boustani himself was working largely out of the United Arab Emirates, but the claims of prosecutors ignored this.
Prosecutors tried to claim that they had jurisdiction simply because some of the money transferred — which was paid through a Middle Eastern bank — momentarily went through the U.S. As Boustani’s legal team showed, however, he had no way of knowing that a transaction he conducted in the Middle East would pass through New York. He was acting as a salesman for Privinvest and not a forensic expert on international banking infrastructure.
In addition, U.S. prosecutors had no business pursuing a transaction that didn’t take place in New York beyond these momentary transfers. As Boustani’s lawyer argued, the United States “was not the world’s policeman.” The jury agreed with this statement, as three jurors commented that this was a key point of their deliberations.
Hearing that he was cleared of all charges was an emotional moment for Boustani, and he didn’t try to hide his emotions. Boustani crossed himself and walked out of the courtroom with a fist in the air. Before doing so, he apologized to the judge for being a little emotional after spending 11 months in jail for charges he was cleared of.