LONDON (AFP) - Five financial brokers were acquitted on Wednesday of conspiring with a convicted currency trader to fix the Libor lending rate.
A jury found the five not guilty of rigging the benchmark inter-bank lending rate, a key reference for financial products globally, after a trial that began more than 16 weeks ago at London's Southwark Crown Court.
They were charged with conspiracy to defraud by trying to manipulate the Libor linked to the Japanese yen.
They were accused of helping convicted currency trader Tom Hayes manipulate the Libor, the average interest rate at which banks can borrow unsecured funds from one another in the London market.
The rate underpins hundreds of trillions of dollars of contracts, from mortgages to corporate lending.
Noel Cryan, 50, Danny Wilkinson, 49, James Gilmour, 50 and Terry Farr, 44, and Colin Goodman, 54, were all cleared.
The jury took less than a day to reach their verdicts.
The charges were in connection with the Serious Fraud Office's ongoing investigation into the manipulation of Libor.
Prosecutors alleged the men conspired with Hayes to fix Libor rates in exchange for offers of treats like takeaway curries and drinks.
Commenting on the five cleared defendants, SFO director David Green said: "The key issue in this trial was whether these defendants were party to a dishonest agreement with Tom Hayes.
"By their verdicts, the jury have said that they could not be sure that this was the case."
The jury was still considering a charge against Darrell Read, 50, from New Zealand's capital Wellington.
Cryan worked for Tullett Prebon. Read, Wilkinson and Goodman worked for ICAP while Gilmour and Farr worked for RP Martin.
Goodman's lawyers said in a statement that the case against their client - who the trial heard was nicknamed Lord Libor - had been "a complete shambles".
"Colin Goodman (Lord Libor) is very grateful to the jury for throwing out this allegation in one day despite the fact that the trial lasted three and a half months," the statement said.
"The SFO case was a complete shambles and should never have been brought."
Hayes, a former Tokyo-based trader for UBS who later joined Citigroup, became the first person to be convicted over the Libor rate-rigging scandal.
He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud in August and jailed for 14 years, a sentence later reduced to 11 years after an appeal.