The United Arab Emirates faces the first serious test of its commitment the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Will it open a case against long-time resident Jean Boustani, who the U.S. Justice Department says masterminded the bribery scheme that robbed the people of Mozambique of some $2 billion. The “Mozambican hidden debt” scandal pitched the nation into a deep recession, depriving thousands of basic necessities and leaving government without the resources to respond to Cyclone Idai
In its latest submission in its case against Boustani, the Justice Department reveals that much of the bribery scheme was carried out in the UAE. Boustani helped one co-conspirator open an account in a UAE bank to stash bribes, facilitated the travel of others to the UAE to further the bribery scheme, and secured UAE employment permits for three under false pretenses. Each permit, says the Justice Department, “falsely stated that the [accomplices] professions were ‘petrol engine mechanic,’ ‘diesel engine mechanic,’ and ‘hydraulic mechanic.’” In fact, the Justice Department told the court in its filing, “all three were members of the conspiracy who would receive millions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks for their roles in the scheme.”
The Justice Department’s charges against Boustani and accomplices are here. To view the Justice Department filing describing Boustani’s alleged violations of UAE law, click on DoJ Boustani filing . To view the e-mails and other documents that support the Department’s narrative, click on evidence of UAE offenses.
Mozambican citizens have suffered a terrible wrong, one which UNCAC is meant to right. Will UAE authorities do their part to help right that wrong? Will the UAE live up to its obligations under the UNODC to prosecute those who pay bribes? Those who flagrantly violate other of its laws as part of a bribery scheme?
Great reporting, Rick. As I learned working for the Abu Dhabi government for a year on commercial court modernization, it’s extremely image- conscious, so ratcheting up the publicity is a good thing.
Thanks for highlighting this. These developments have gotten surprisingly little press given how much money is involved.
Rick, this post raises great questions. Do you have any sense of what the UAE’s record is like on these kinds of international criminal issues? Is it more likely or not that they’ll bring criminal charges against Boustani, do you think? And if the UAE does not, and thus defies its UNCAC obligations, do Mozambicans have any legal recourse? Or are they stuck with he UNCAC peer review mechanism? Thanks!
As I wrote in answer to Disha’s comment, the rumors are the UAE does nothing to assist other nations on transnational criminal offenses. UNCAC creates a Conference of States Parties to oversee implementation and provides for arbitration if two parties disagree on interpretation of a provision. Mozambique might try to raise the issue at the next meeting of the conference. Arbitration requires the consent of both states. Public pressure likely its best avenue. Perhaps the post will provide sufficient pressure?
Thank you for reporting on this Rick. Has the UAE dealt with something like this before? Also, are there any past instances of anti-corruption cooperation between the US and UAE? Given the fundamentally different regimes, I imagine the issue could be handled very differently. But the fact that false employment permits were obtained suggests the UAE was duped as well. What are their penalties like for such crimes?
Was traveling and missed your comment. Sorry for the tardy reply. I don’t know of any past cooperation between the UAE and any country. I hear stories that it is good place to hide dirty money but have never seen anything to verify the claim. I wrote the post to alert UAE authorities to the violation in the hopes they would take action. I continue to hope.