LONDON (Reuters) - A French former Barclays (BARC.L) trader, charged by British prosecutors over alleged Euribor interest rate manipulation, will be tried in London in absentia, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday.
Philippe Moryoussef, a former senior derivatives trader once based in Singapore, had no lawyer in court as a jury was picked this week to hear the case against five defendants in the world’s first Euribor (euro interbank offered rate) trial.
The SFO said Moryoussef had voluntarily absented himself from his trial and declined to attend any further London hearings.
Moryoussef’s lawyer, Francois De Castro, said in a statement that his client would not have faced a fair trial in London and was therefore putting himself under the protection of French authorities - “the only authority competent to hear this case”.
Prosecutors are due to open their case at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday in a trial expected to last more than three months focusing on the euro counterpart of Libor (London interbank offered rate), both key benchmarks for trillions of dollars worth of financial contracts and loans worldwide.
Four other defendants - former Barclays traders Briton Colin Bermingham, Sisse Bohart, a Dane, Anglo-Italian Carlo Palombo and German Achim Kraemer, who remains employed by Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) - have pleaded not guilty.
Another former co-defendant, ex-Deutsche Bank star trader Christian Bittar, a Frenchman who was once the German bank’s most profitable trader and worked in London and Singapore until 2011, pleaded guilty last month.
The four men and one woman each face one charge of conspiring together and with Bittar and others to defraud by dishonestly manipulating Brussels-based Euribor between January 2005 and December 2009 for profit.
It is the fifth SFO prosecution of traders on conspiracy to defraud charges relating to benchmark rate manipulation in a six-year British investigation. Six men have been jailed since former UBS (UBSG.S) and Citigroup (C.N) trader Tom Hayes became the first man convicted in a trial by jury in 2015. Eight have been acquitted.
It has been a complex process. The SFO had planned to charge 11 people over Euribor manipulation, but that number dwindled to six after four other Germans and one Frenchman did not come to London to be formally charged in 2016. They have not been extradited.
Some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions have paid around $9.0 billion to settle allegations of rate rigging. Deutsche Bank paid $2.5 billion in 2015, while Barclays was the first to settle, paying $453 million in 2012.
Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter