Six bankers charged, five absent as UK begins first Euribor rigging case

LONDON (Reuters) - Six bankers were formally charged in a British court on Monday with conspiring to manipulate Euribor benchmark interest rates, while another five accused in the case did not appear for the hearing.

The case involving 11 former Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Societe Generale employees is Britain’s fourth prosecution of rate-fixing allegations since it joined a global inquiry kick-started by U.S. regulators in 2008.

It is the first to cover allegations of manipulation of Euribor, which ranks alongside the London Interbank Offered Rate, Libor, as a key benchmark used to set terms for $450 trillion in securities worldwide.

Prosecutors told Westminster Magistrates’ Court they had learned only on Monday that four Germans and a Frenchman would not attend the preliminary hearing in the case. The case was referred to the higher-level Southwark Crown Court, where a first hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.

A lawyer for Joerg Vogt, one of the five who did not attend, said her client was under no obligation to appear. A lawyer for another, Ardalan Gharagozlou, declined to comment.

Lawyers for the other three “no-shows” - Andreas Hauschild, Kai-Uwe Kappauf and Stephane Esper - did not immediately respond to emails from Reuters seeking an explanation for why their clients did not appear. All are Germans apart from Esper who is French.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale declined to comment. A spokeswoman for SocGen said in an emailed statement: “The case relates to an individual who left the bank in 2009 and not the bank itself. Due to the ongoing legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.”

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Prosecutor James Waddington told the court the bankers who did not attend had offered a variety of explanations for staying away, including ongoing investigations in Germany.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said that the five, who were foreigners located outside Britain, had a right not to appear in response to the summons, and had not been made subject to any extradition request.

The six who did appear - Christian Bittar, Colin Bermingham‎, Philippe Moryoussef, Sisse Bohart, Achim Kraemer and Carlo Palombo - were released on conditional bail.

Lawyers for Frenchman Bittar have said he would contest the allegations. Lawyers for Italian-British national Palombo have declined to comment. Representatives of Kraemer, a German, Moryoussef, who is French, Bermingham, who is British and Bohart, a Dane, did not respond to requests for comment.

Global investigations into the fixing of interest rate benchmarks have so far culminated in banks and brokerages paying about $9 billion in regulatory settlements, and more than 30 individuals being charged.

Euribor rates, like the similar Libor benchmarks, are compiled from estimates that banks give of their cost of borrowing. The latest case, like previous investigations, focuses on accusations that bankers around the world deliberately manipulated the benchmarks for profit.

The accused include former middle managers, traders and Euribor rate submitters of six nationalities for the three banks, resident in countries ranging from the United States to Denmark and Singapore.

Bittar, a Singapore-based star trader who was once one of Deutsche Bank’s most profitable money markets managers, is being represented by Alexander Cameron, brother of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. His bail was set at 1 million pounds, while none of the others was ordered to pay more than 150,000.

($1 = 0.6862 pounds)

Writing by Sinead Cruise, Editing by Peter Graff