By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Julian Rifat, a former trader at U.S. hedge fund Moore Capital, will next Wednesday appear in a London court four years after being held for questioning in connection with the UK's largest and most complex insider dealing investigation.
Westminster Magistrates' Court confirmed that Rifat was listed to appear on Jan. 29 to hear eight charges against him in a case codenamed Operation Tabernula, which to date has seen 10 men arrested, seven charged and one jailed.
Former Exane BNP Paribas sales trading head Clive Roberts remains under investigation in the drawn-out investigation that began in 2007 but hit the headlines in March 2010, when police initially arrested six men to break up what the regulator called a sophisticated and long-running insider dealing ring.
The regulator, long criticised for being too soft on market abuse, has pushed financial crime to the top of its agenda amid public outrage at a string of bank scandals, ranging from mis-selling to benchmark fixing, five years after taxpayers were forced to bail out banks in the wake of the credit crisis.
Britain's regulator, revamped and renamed the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last April in a move to draw a line under past failings, has pushed up staffing in its enforcement and financial crime arm by 17 percent to 480 in its first year.
Since 2009, there have been 23 convictions for insider dealing and last year, the FCA arrested another 15. But the UK continues to lag the United States, where the Securities and Exchange Commission brought 44 insider trading actions last year alone.
Britain's biggest swoop on an alleged insider dealing ring has involved a series of arrests, including Rifat and Martyn Dodgson, a former Deutsche Bank managing director and one of the most senior bankers charged here with such an offence.
The others charged are Dubai-based Iraj Parvizi, a former director at fund Aria Capital, Grant Harrison, a former managing director at private investment bank Altium Capital, Andrew Hind, Richard Baldwin and Benjamin Anderson.
Paul Milsom, a former equities trader at the investment arm of Legal and General also investigated in Operation Tabernula, was sentenced to two years in jail last March after pleading guilty to insider dealing between Oct. 2008 and March 2010. The judge took into consideration his guilty plea for a criminal offence that can be punishable by up to seven years in jail.
Parvizi has pleaded not guilty and the others have yet to enter a plea. A trial is expected this September.
Given the length of the investigation, the seniority of some defendants and the publicity generated at the time of the arrests, lawyers say the FCA is under pressure to land convictions.