Ex Credit Suisse banker in $86 million London appeal after Romanian conviction

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) – A former Credit Suisse banker, who was convicted and sentenced to prison in Romania for a decade for alleged espionage in 2013, is hoping to revive an $86 million London claim against the Swiss bank for lost earnings.

Vadim Benyatov, a former head of European emerging markets focused on energy sector privatisations, is urging the Court of Appeal to overturn a lower court decision to dismiss his case, in which he alleges the Swiss bank owes him a duty of care and that his employment contract implied a considerable indemnity.

A lawyer for Benyatov told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday that his client, who was made redundant in 2015 and has been unable to find suitable work since then, had been convicted for doing his job.

“Mr Benyatov was an employee of Credit Suisse who, as a direct result of doing his job and through no fault of his own was convicted in Romania for doing his work,” Charles Ciumei told the first day of a three-day hearing.

“The impact of that conviction was to end his career in the financial services industry.”

Credit Suisse said it would continue to defend itself against a “meritless” claim.

The case is being closely watched by employment lawyers because it raises questions about the nature and extent of the risk to which employees can be exposed.

Benyatov, who earned 450,000 pounds ($497,565) plus bonuses per year, was arrested alongside two colleagues in 2006 in connection with a Romanian privatisation. He was jailed for 56 days before being tried and convicted in 2013 in absentia for alleged espionage and membership of an organised criminal group.

Credit Suisse, which originally agreed his conduct had been in line with accepted business practice, supported and paid for his defence and appeals, including to the European Court of Human Rights – and his sentence was cut to four-and-a-half years in 2015.

But the bank challenges his claims of duty of care breaches, negligence and causation of loss and damage.

In 2015, Benyatov fled to the United States to avoid any European Arrest Warrant. He has not served his sentence.

($1 = 0.9044 pounds)

(Additional reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Mark Potter)