Business World

Friday 23 March 2018

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

Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt.
Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt.

Six bankers were formally charged in 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 General 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 covers allegations of manipulation of Euribor, which alongside the London Interbank Offered Rate, Libor, is one of two main benchmarks 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 one of the five who did not attend, Joerg Vogt, said her client was under no obligation to appear.

Lawyers for the other four "no-shows" - Andreas Hauschild, Ardalan Gharagozlou, 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 and Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Societe Generale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

A legal source who declined to be identified said paperwork requiring the five to attend may not have been filed correctly by Britain's Serious Fraud Office. The SFO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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


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