Two arrested in Australia over insider trading scam

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police on Friday arrested two men accused of making millions through insider trading, alleging one who worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics fed sensitive information to a banker for use in foreign exchange trades.

Australian Federal Police said a 24-year-old government statistics worker in Canberra and a Melbourne man, 26, were picked up after suspicious trading in forex derivatives was detected.

"It will be alleged in court that the 26-year-old man was obtaining this market-sensitive information before its official release by the ABS," police said in a statement.

He was allegedly using the data to predict movements in the Australian dollar and entering into foreign exchange derivative products to profit from those fluctuations, police said.

The investigation by police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges that trades between August 2013 and this month produced profits of A$7 million (S$8 million).

The men, who police said knew each other from university, have not been named.

The 26-year-old worked for the National Australia Bank but police said he did not use the bank's funds or systems in the alleged transactions.

"He was operating of his own accord," Australian Federal Police acting assistant commissioner Ian McCartney said.

NAB confirmed the charges did not relate to the man's work at the bank, adding that he has since been fired.

"While I can't talk about the details of the charges, I can say that the activity alleged by authorities is unlawful and completely unacceptable to NAB and our core values," chief executive Cameron Clyne said.

The Melbourne man has been charged with offences relating to the use of inside information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to unlawfully profit and corrupting a public official.

Police said he could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

The 24-year-old was charged with insider trading offences, as well as receiving a corrupt benefit, release of sensitive information, and abuse of public office.

It was not known how long he could face behind bars if found guilty.

"Investigations like this send a clear message to anyone who is thinking of engaging in this type of criminal activity - we have the ability to monitor you and take action," McCartney said.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's head of markets enforcement Chris Savundra said insider trading would not be tolerated.

"Insider trading is a serious criminal offence which will not be tolerated because it has the potential to destroy trust, discourage participation, and undermine confidence in the integrity of Australia's financial markets," he said.

The ABS said the arrest of a staff member for unauthorised disclosure of statistics was "unprecedented in ABS history spanning more than 100 years".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.