* Adoboli convicted of biggest fraud in British history
* Acquitted of 4 counts of false accounting
* Was highly valued by UBS until his arrest
* Losses a result of burnout, not dishonesty, Adoboli argued
By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON, Nov 20 Kweku Adoboli, convicted of
Britain's biggest fraud, had cried when his lawyer read out old
appraisals of his performance as a trader at UBS that
described him as gifted, hardworking and an outstanding
ambassador for the Swiss bank.
During his trial for single-handedly losing UBS $2.3 billion
through fraudulent trading, the 32-year-old ex-trader clearly
found it painful to look back on his time at the bank.
"UBS was my family," he said in the witness box, weeping.
"To find yourself in Wandsworth Prison for nine months because
all you did was worked so hard for this bank!"
A warm, friendly man with an open face and distinctive
laugh, Adoboli was popular at school, university and work.
Called as prosecution witnesses at his trial, one after
another of his UBS colleagues disowned him, denying his claims
that they had known how he operated and that it was all part of
a wider culture of rule-bending in pursuit of profits.
But his older friends stayed true, coming to support him day
after day at his 10-week trial.
The son of a Ghanaian human resources specialist who worked
for the United Nations, Adoboli was born Kwaku in Accra in May
1980, but switched to Kweku at the age of six to sidestep the
'Quack Quack' nickname he had picked up.
The family moved to Israel for his father's work and later
to Syria and back to Israel, with a stint back in Ghana during
the first Gulf War.
His parents considered the upheavals bad for his education,
so at 12 sent him to Ackworth, a private Quaker boarding school
in northern England, where he became "head boy", an early sign
of talent and leadership skills.
In court, Adoboli said he had learnt great values at the
school, even quoting its Latin motto "non sibi sed omnibus",
which he translated as "not for self but for all".
Though found guilty of fraud, the jury found him not guilty
of the four false accounting charges, for which they needed to
be certain he acted for personal financial gain.
He went on to study at Nottingham University, graduating in
2003 in e-commerce and digital business studies.
In the summer of 2002 he did a 10-week summer internship at
UBS that went so well that the bank offered him a job for after
his studies and made him an ambassador on the Nottingham campus.
After graduation, he started work in the UBS back office in
September 2003. Three years later he became a trader on the
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) desk and remained there until his
arrest on Sept. 15, 2011.
HOW MANY ZEROES?
"He could explain ETFs to my Nan and she would get it," said
colleague Rob Pienaar in Adoboli's 2009 appraisal, commenting on
how good he was with clients.
There were still traces of corporate jargon in the way
Adoboli spoke in court, perhaps a legacy from past client
visits. He spoke often of "contributing to the franchise".
"He is obviously very intelligent. He is plainly very
articulate. You may think that he has a lot of natural charm.
There are people who speak highly of him," judge Brian Keith
told the jury on Nov. 13, during his summing up.
Keith also reminded the jurors of the prosecution case
against Adoboli: that behind the charming facade was a reckless
gambling addict who had played God with UBS's money in the
arrogant belief that he had the magic touch.
Adoboli's own explanation for how he had gone from model
employee to rogue trader was totally different. He had started
"off-book" trading in October 2008 because it was a way to
maximise profits for UBS, and the bank had done very well out of
his "innovative" methods until the spring of 2011.
The losses had come only after colleagues had pressured him
into flipping from a bearish to a bullish stance on July 1,
2011, he said. Acting against his own convictions had caused him
to lose control. He had burnt out and become de-sensitised.
"I had no clarity, I had no energy, I was broken," said a
tearful Adoboli, his voice cracking.
After owning up in an email on Sept. 14, 2011, to hiding
losses with fictitious bookings, he went back to the office
where he had spent his entire working life for the last time. He
left under police escort at 3:35 a.m. the next morning. At the
time, the losses had been estimated at $1.5 billion.
"At 3:57 a.m. Adoboli's detention was authorized by the
custody sergeant, after the arresting officer had politely
explained how many zeros there were in $1.5bn," the police said
in a statement.