Singapore-based banker and 5 others charged as UK begins first Euribor rigging case

Singapore-based banker Christian Bittar leaving the Westminster Magistrates court in London on Jan 11, 2016.
Singapore-based banker Christian Bittar leaving the Westminster Magistrates court in London on Jan 11, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Six bankers were formally charged in a British court on Monday (Jan 11) 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 US 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 US$450 trillion (S$645.7 trillion) in securities worldwide.

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.

Christian Bittar, a Singapore-based star trader who was once one of Deutsche Bank's most profitable money markets managers, is represented by Mr Alexander Cameron, brother of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. His bail was set at £1 million (S$2.08 million), while none of the others was ordered to pay more than £150,000.

Global investigations into the fixing of interest rate benchmarks have so far culminated in banks and brokerages paying about US$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.

Prosecutors told Westminster Magistrates' Court they had learnt 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.

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.

The six who did appear - 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.