UK delays Libor trial of former Barclays traders

LONDON (Reuters) - British prosecutors have delayed the start of their third Libor trial after new information was provided by Barclays BARC.L, the former employer of the latest group of traders charged with conspiracy to manipulate financial benchmark interest rates.

Slideshow ( 6 images )

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Monday that the trial, which had been scheduled to begin on February 15, might be delayed until mid-April after Barclays provided “further material” that the agency might need to review.

Reuters was unable to determine the nature of the material. British bank Barclays declined to comment and the SFO declined to provide further detail.

The trial will mark a watershed for the SFO, which has obtained one conviction but seen six brokers acquitted in high-profile prosecutions over the alleged rigging of the London interbank offered rate (Libor), a benchmark for around $450 trillion (311.16 trillion pounds) of financial contracts and loans worldwide.

The Barclays trial comes after former UBS UBSG.VX and Citigroup C.N trader Tom Hayes was convicted in August of conspiracy to rig yen-denominated Libor. But in a separate trial, six former ICAP IAP.L, RP Martin and Tullett Prebon TLPR.L brokers, charged with being part of that conspiracy, walked free last month.

In its latest Libor case, the SFO has charged former Barclays employees Peter Johnson, Jonathan Mathew, Stylianos Contogoulas, Jay Merchant, Alex Pabon and Ryan Reich with conspiracy to manipulate dollar Libor rates.

Hayes, meanwhile, has said he will continue to explore all avenues to try and appeal against his conviction and sentence, which has already been reduced to 11 years from 14 on appeal.

The acquittal of the brokers after one of the SFO’s most costly prosecutions was a set-back for the agency. Although it brought the case successfully to trial, critics accused it of focussing on relatively low-level staff.

However, three former ICAP brokers still face U.S. charges.

Daniel Wilkinson, Colin Goodman and New Zealand-based Darrell Read, who were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud in the UK, were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud by U.S. prosecutors in 2013.

It remains unclear whether the Department of Justice will pursue them following their acquittal in Britain. The DoJ has said it is reviewing the matter.

Additional reporting by Sarah Lynch in Washington and Sinead Cruise in London; Editing by Alexander Smith