Meet the pizza-loving diplomat behind Credit Suisse’s big scoop at Antigua News

A surprising twist in the saga of Credit Suisse’s additional $17 billion first-tier write-down made headlines this week, when mainFT revealed the following:

Credit Suisse has directly contested the Swiss financial regulator’s basis for writing down $17 billion of its additional Tier 1 bonds, in a private letter aimed at sparing employee bonuses that were tied to the debt.

We say “sort of” because, while the Financial Times was the first major news organization to write about the revelations in Switzerland’s Finma’s second decree ordering Credit Suisse to cancel its AT1 notes, another lesser-known media organization actually got the scoop. :

The second decree was published in full online last week by Antigua News, a local news outlet. The Financial Times separately obtained a copy of the decree and verified its authenticity with several people with direct knowledge of the situation.

If you are not familiar with Antigua news, you are not alone.

The barely two-year-old website primarily trades the comings and goings of the Caribbean island of Antigua and Barbuda, with recent stories chronicling a robbery at a local Roti King takeaway and the suspension of a high-profile criminal trial due to a courtroom “mold infestation.”

Even by the standards of the local news company, Antigua News’s Twitter presence It was minimal, with a measly 15 followers ahead of Monday’s FT story:

Antigua? We hardly know

Needless to say, obscure Caribbean websites don’t usually break the big European banking stories.

For those not following the intricacies of the aftermath of Credit Suisse’s marriage to UBS shotgun, earlier this month a group of AT1 bondholders who banded together to sue Finma scored an early victory in what is expected to be a drawn-out courtroom battle.

The affected investors forced the Swiss financial regulator to hand over two hitherto secret documents: a Finma decree ordering Credit Suisse to cancel AT1 bonds and a second decree relating to employee bonuses that were linked to the debt.

While aspects of the first decree quickly leaked to the Swiss press, it was mistook for the world’s media that Fenema had issued a second decree before news of Antigua had even reached the scene.

The contents of this second edict were even more explosive. The document reveals that Credit Suisse has challenged Finma’s interpretation of the AT1 contracts and argued that conditions allowing write-offs were not met. It marks a coup for investors struggling to prove that Finma acted improperly.

On May 15th, hours after Swiss financial blog Inside Paradeplatz published an article with a few graphic excerpts from copies of the first decree, Antigua News quietly published digital copies of the first and second decrees. in its entirety. He even cleverly watermarked it:

FT Alphaville set out to discover how a little-known Antiguan website captured the Swiss smoking gun and captivated the global financial press.

The answer led us to a pizza-loving lawyer and ambassador, whose notable past clients include Vladimir Putin’s ex-son-in-law.

A surfing destination in the Caribbean

Antigua News ran two articles on Credit Suisse’s troubles in March, as the 167-year-old lender fell into the arms of longtime rival UBS. These earlier stories had at least a byline (“tata”), but lacked the sourcing power of a post-jam dropper send-up.

While the domain owner used a privacy protection service, online records also suggested a Swiss connection:

The site itself. . . Not user friendly. Large portions of the screen area are covered by large invisible link windows, making right-clicking impossible.

Some gentle tinkering allowed Alphaville to overcome these barriers and access the raw images of Finma’s decisions. File names like “FITMA 1.pdf.jpg” suggest not only a slight omission arising from wanting to get the content online (we can relate), but also that the poster has a digital copy of the document itself.

As much as we love a place for online archeology, we decided at this point that it would be best to use phones.

An unexpected item in the grab bag area

A Swiss lawyer, Antigua and Barbuda ambassador to Spain, and a budding media mogul walk into a bar.

His name is Dario Bend.

“This is my article, I wrote the article for the Antigua News,” the item told FTAV. “Me too [the owner] Antigua News. I am also a Swiss lawyer. . . I advocate for some investors and that’s why I have this information.”

We came across the next guy behind the scoop while calling the cold phone numbers connected to Antigua News (it was more successful than our previous exchange with a slightly bemused ad sales representative who hadn’t heard of Credit Suisse, but wholeheartedly promised to pass on our inquiry all the same).

Item, 50, is Antigua’s ambassador not only to Spain, but also to the small European principalities of Monaco and Liechtenstein, and to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. His Embassy owns and operates Antigua News. He is also a lawyer based in Lugano, Switzerland, representing undisclosed investors holding Suisse AT1 Credit Cards, which were liquidated during the sale to UBS.

He told us: “You understand it’s a big scandal in Switzerland.” “We are all very upset because we sincerely believe that there is [was] There is no legal basis whatsoever for AT1s to blog.”

(The operative declined to name the investors he represents, citing “attorney-client privilege.”)

Possessing both the decrees and the Antigua News (which he called “the official channel of the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda in Madrid”), Eat decided to cut out the middleman: he effectively made the documents himself, publishing them along with an explanation of their significance on the news site he controlled via his post. Diplomat.

His version of the big scoop is corroborated by the unnamed journalist who oversees the Antigua News’ WhatsApp group, who also suggests that its hands-on owner has a similar straightforward editorial philosophy to that proclaimed by Lord Lebedev in the London Evening Standard:

(The anonymous journalist also saw the file A scathing tweet About the Antigua News’ small number of Twitter followers, they cheerfully noted that their Facebook account is so popular because “Islanders rarely use Twitter.” Fair point!)

The item explained that he was the man for the job when it came to writing about the intricacies of the legal case surrounding Credit Suisse’s AT1 devices because it is “a very sensitive matter”.

“I have the competencies to write an article like this,” he said. “And I decided to do it because I think it’s very important.”

It is definitely a new approach to journalism. Other FT sources close to the case were more cautious about sharing documents than the ongoing litigation. Element has no such qualms.

“These documents are not confidential at all,” he told us, adding that the Swiss court that forced FINMA to disclose the decrees to bondholders had placed “no restrictions” on their publication. “This is very, very important. People should know. All the details.”

global mr

The 1-minute, 31-second clip, titled “Dario Item”, is one of three videos on the “Dario Item” YouTube channel. The other two are called “Dario Item” and “Dario Item”.

The picture shows Felipe VI of Spain standing in the antechamber of Charles III, which is part of the royal palace in Madrid. The elemental enters through a distant door and solemnly presents his credentials to Felipe.

The scene was also documented on Item’s Instagram, where he primarily posts beach pics and has 800,000 followers.

These are just two examples of the element’s sprawling web presence, which, besides Antigua News, also includes a personal website, other personal website, other personal website, personal press website, other personal press website, and a medium profile. Here he is promoting blockchain regulation in Antigua and Barbuda. Here he is mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II in the local Scottish press. Here he writes about money laundering in Switzerland.

The element also appears repeatedly in connection with Antigua’s “Nomad Digital Residence” programme, which allows foreigners to live and work remotely from Antigua and Barbuda for up to two years.

Last summer, Item announced that it was cautiously reopening the plan[ed]“For non-sanctioned Russians and Belarusians,” observing “strict criteria.” We also noticed that Russian is one of the few language options on many of the countless item websites.

The Ambassador confirmed to us that his Russian websites were his way of promoting Antigua citizenship through an investment program in the country and the surrounding region. He added that “unfortunately” the window for applicants from Russia and Belarus closed again just one month after his big announcement.

Clients next to Putin

There are other Prussian-related elements around.

In 2020, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a consortium of investigative journalists, named the item in relation to a network of offshore companies owned by Kirill Shamalov, former son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The article was described as “the main keeper of Shamalov’s maritime secrets.”

The element called the allegation “really ridiculous,” noting that he was one of several lawyers who worked for Shamalov.

He told us, “Every lawyer is a custodian of secrets.” “By the way, the case was about a Swiss bank and considering Switzerland as well [an] country abroad [is] Just silly. I was just a lawyer, but that was five years ago.”

It’s not the only story we’ve found close to Putin.

The 2014 Reuters report included documents from a company called Media Investment, which supplied material for the notorious property adjacent to the Black Sea dubbed “Putin’s Palace”. The document names “Dr. Dario Bend” of Lugano, Switzerland, as representative of Medea. Reuters reports that the company’s shareholder is Lanfranco Cirillo, an Italian architect best known for designing the palace allegedly built for the pleasure of the Russian president.

The agent said his work for Cirillo was “in the past” and claimed that the client’s attorney’s privilege again prevented him from discussing the details.

Then there was his run with the financial authorities in Labuan, a federal territory in Malaysia, which in 2019 revoked his clause as a director of two financial services firms. As a result of the regulatory penalty, Antigua also revoked one of his companies’ banking licenses. The Malaysian regulator later overturned the personal penalty against the element, after a judicial review.

“I was—you may believe me or not—I was the victim of a fraud,” Emment said. “I won in court and there is nothing left in that country [Malaysia]. Every action against me has been withdrawn and this is public.”

Veneer advisor

We thought this story was weird and wonderful enough. Then we found a pizza forum.

Among his other interests, Item owns a message board for pizza lovers, La Verace, where he posts as an administrator under the name Napoli72. Another pizza aficionado even refers to him affectionately as “Zio Dario” (“Uncle Dario”).

Zio Dario posted 4,635 times. Here is his signature (Google translation):

“That’s my ambition. That’s my ambition. Absolutely. It’s absolutely my passion. I love to cook. I love to cook,” Element told FTAV.

He added, “And I have a pizza oven in all my homes, also here in Antigua. I’m a little crazy to be honest.”

The commitment to making quality homemade pizza just doesn’t seem to exist for a man of elemental means. But then he began to detail the exact logistics involved.

“You can’t imagine how difficult it was to bring an oven from Naples,” the item continued with a chuckle, explaining how he had to use a crane to install the traditional oven forno. “If you see what I did here, you can definitely conclude that I am crazy.”

While the FTAV wouldn’t go that far, it certainly illustrates the same “can-do” approach that prompted the international lawyer and diplomat to take over when the global financial press missed the real story on Credit Suisse.

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