• Sun. May 19th, 2024

Cameroonian business man Wilson Daniel Freita Da Costa caught in $1.1bilion scam

Cameroonian born Wilson Daniel Freita Da Costa, A business man and a former General Electric Co. executive, has been accused of fraud by the US government.

He is alleged to have used fake documents to convince the Angolan government to cancel contracts with another company for a $1.1 billion power and water project.

Da Costa is accused of altering documents from the Angolan government to remove Aenergy SA, a Portuguese-owned infrastructure firm, from the deal and cover up an accounting discrepancy.

The alleged actions of Da Costa have cost Aenergy hundreds of millions of dollars in potential contracts with GE and other companies.

Da Costa’s lawyer and prosecutors described him as a senior executive. A four-count indictment was unsealed charging him with fraud and identity theft.

Da Costa appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Ong said in court that there were other aspects of the investigation that “have not yet been charged.” Da Costa’s attorney Maurice Sercarz said that his client intends to defend himself against the charges. GE has cooperated with the Justice Department and expressed its concern over the alleged actions of the former employee. The company stated that it is committed to integrity, compliance, and the rule of law in every country in which it operates. These claims relate to unauthorized alleged actions made in 2017 by a former employee who engaged in a scheme to forge documents.

Da Costa worked for GE until 2019 in what the company described as a sales role. Before his arrest, he lived in Portugal and earned about $30,000 a month, with business ties in Angola, Cameroon and the UAE, according to a report referenced in court. 

Da Costa’s attorney offered a $2.5 million security and the relocation of Da Costa’s wife and child to New York from Portugal in an attempt to secure bail. But US District Judge P. Kevin Castel ruled against him after hearing arguments from the prosecution about Da Costa’s connection to “high-ranking government officials” and inconsistencies in his statements to the US government.

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Aenergy has filed multiple lawsuits against GE in a bid to hold the company responsible for the fallout of the Angola deal. The dispute centers around financing for a power and water project in the southern African nation and the sale of a dozen wind turbines.

According to a lawsuit filed in 2022, GE agreed to supply the company turbines and to extend a $1.1 billion credit facility to the Angolan government to finance Aenergy’s pipeline of projects. The deal fell apart, Aenergy said, when GE manipulated its turbine sales to prop up its revenue figures. 

Photoshopping Documents

The US accuses Da Costa of photoshopping documents purportedly from government officials in Angola as part of the scheme between 2017 and 2019. The documents would help cover up a discrepancy between the turbines Aenergy had agreed to buy from GE and the number it was contracted to sell to Angola. 

At the same time, according to the suit, GE legal and accounting teams were investigating how accurately the turbine sales were reflected on the company’s books. The Angolan government terminated contracts with Aenergy and proposed transferring the work directly to GE. The lawsuit, in federal court in Connecticut, was dismissed subject to GE agreeing to litigate the case in Angola.

In court on Wednesday, Sercarz suggested it was Aenergy that had the incentive to paper over the disparity. 

Da Costa is next due to appear in court in March. 

–With assistance from Ryan Beene.

(Updates with detail from Wednesday court hearing. An earlier version of this story corrected the headline to clarify that the accused no longer works for GE.)

Mbiydzela

mbiydzela
Mbiydze is a web and graphic designer, digital marketer, and founder of a group of companies including CHEETAH CAMEROON, MBIYDZELA DIGITAL and PULSEBEAT ENTERTAINMENT  He is an ambitious entrepreneur with experience in various fields.
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