| LONDON, March 4
LONDON, March 4 British fraud prosecutors have
sifted through "vast amounts" of documents in their case against
three former Barclays traders alleged to have rigged
crucial Libor benchmark interest rates over a two year period, a
London court heard on Tuesday.
James Hines, a senior lawyer for Britain's Serious Fraud
Office (SFO), told a short hearing at Southwark Crown Court that
much of the evidence against Peter Johnson, 59, Jonathan Mathew,
33, and Stylianos Contogoulas, 42, was in email form.
The three men, who are next expected to appear in court
towards the end of July, bring to 13 the number facing criminal
charges in Britain and the U.S. over allegations that they
attempted to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate
(Libor), a central cog in global financial markets against which
about $450 trillion of financial products are pegged, from home
loans to derivatives.
But they are the first to face charges focusing on the
alleged manipulation of the U.S. dollar-denominated Libor rate.
Libor, an average rate at which a panel of banks say they
can borrow unsecured funds, is seen as the most important
benchmark for short term interest rates and, since the birth of
the euro in 2000, was calculated in 10 currencies.
However, since the global fixing scandal erupted after
Barclays became the first bank to settle allegations of Libor
manipulation with U.S. and UK regulators in 2012, the number of
denominations has been whittled down to five under a new U.S.
administrator, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE).
Of those five currencies - the Swiss franc, euro, pound
sterling, Japanese yen and U.S. dollar - the dollar rate is
considered to be the most widely used.
Previous charges filed by Britain's SFO and the U.S.
Department of Justice have focused on the alleged manipulation
of yen-denominated Libor rates.
The Libor and a related Euribor inquiry, which stretches
from North America to Asia, has to date seen U.S. and European
regulators fine 10 banks and brokerages a total of $6 billion.
Meanwhile, regulators and prosecutors say they plan to file
further civil and criminal charges against individuals.
The SFO, keen to silence critics who have questioned its
ability to secure convictions for complex financial crimes, has
charged the former Barclays trio with either submitting or
agreeing to procure false or misleading dollar Libor rates to
boost the trading positions of Barclays staff.
Johnson, Mathew and Athens-based Contogoulas, who are on
bail, all face one count of conspiracy to defraud between June
2005 and August 2007.
The SFO has already charged three other men as part of its
Libor investigation, including Tom Hayes, a former yen
derivatives trader at UBS and Citigroup, who
pleaded not guilty in December.
Hayes is due to stand trial in January 2015 on eight charges
of conspiring with staff from at least 10 banks and brokerages
to manipulate yen Libor rates between 2006 and 2010.
Terry Farr and James Gilmour, two brokers from RP Martin,
have been charged and pleaded not guilty to similar
fraud-related offences. Their trial has been scheduled for
September 2015, in part to allow the SFO time to bring charges
against further alleged co-conspirators.