LONDON Julian Rifat, a former equity trader at U.S. hedge fund Moore Capital, was charged on Wednesday in connection with Operation Tabernula, Britain's largest insider dealing investigation, becoming the ninth man charged in connection with the inquiry.
Almost four years after his arrest, 44-year-old Rifat sat in the dock in a London magistrates' court on Wednesday accused of eight counts of passing confidential, price-sensitive information to an accomplice to his "significant advantage".
Britain's financial regulator started investigating what it has called a sophisticated insider dealing ring in 2007, but it hit the headlines in March 2010 after dawn raids on 16 addresses across southern England, which led to the first arrests.
Rifat, who remains on unconditional bail, did not indicate a plea in the brief hearing and was ordered to appear before the higher Southwark Crown Court on February 12.
Paul Milsom, a former senior equities trader at the investment arm of Legal & General (LGEN.L), last year became the first man to be jailed after pleading guilty in the case that has so far led to 10 arrests.
Former Exane BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) sales trading head Clive Roberts remains under investigation.
The Financial Conduct Authority FCA.L alleges Rifat passed on inside information about eight companies in 2009, including UK banking group Barclays (BARC.L), German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), Spanish power group Iberdrola (IBE.MC) and German retailer Metro (MEOG.DE).
His co-accused was named as Graeme Shelley, a former broker at Novum Securities, who has already been charged as part of Operation Tabernula.
Britain's financial regulators have long been criticised for being too soft on market abuse and the FCA has pushed financial crime to the top of its agenda, as the public rages at an industry beset by scandals ranging from mis-selling to benchmark fixing.
Since 2009 there have been 23 convictions for insider dealing and last year the FCA arrested another 15 suspects.
One of the most high-profile men to be charged in Britain with insider dealing offences to date is Martyn Dodgson, a former Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) managing director arrested alongside Rifat in 2010 as part of Operation Tabernula.
The others charged are Dubai-based Iraj Parvizi, a former director at fund Aria Capital; Grant Harrison, a former managing director at private investment bank Altium Capital; and three others: Andrew Hind, Richard Baldwin and Benjamin Anderson.
Parvizi has pleaded not guilty and the others have yet to enter a plea. A trial is expected this September.
Given the length of the investigation, the seniority of some defendants and the publicity generated by the arrests, lawyers say the FCA is under pressure to land more convictions.
Insider dealing is a criminal offence in Britain, punishable by a fine or up to seven years in jail.
(Editing by David Holmes)