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Ex-Barclays banker convicted in Euribor rigging trial

FILE PHOTO: Banker, Carlo Palombo at Westminster Magistrates court in London, Britain, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - A former Barclays banker has been convicted and another acquitted by a London jury of conspiring to manipulate global Euribor interest rates in London's sixth benchmark rate-rigging trial.

After about five days of deliberations, a jury of nine men and three women on Tuesday found Anglo-Italian Carlo Palombo, 40, guilty after a two-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. His heavily-pregnant wife burst into tears in the public gallery.

Co-defendant Sisse Bohart, a 41-year-old Dane who also once worked at Barclays, was acquitted. The jury has yet to reach a decision on a third defendant, former Barclays banker Colin Bermingham, a 62-year-old Briton.

The defendants were charged with dishonestly manipulating Euribor (the euro interbank offered rate) - a benchmark that helps determine rates on more than $150 trillion (113 trillion pounds) of global financial contracts and loans - between 2005 and 2009.

Palombo, who denied the charges, will be sentenced later, the judge said. Bohart and Bermingham also denied the charges.

The latest verdicts bring to eight the number of bankers convicted of benchmark rate rigging in Britain in a series of prosecutions brought by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Ten have been acquitted.

Eleven powerful banks and brokerages have been fined a total of $9 billion to settle rate-rigging allegations in a global investigation.

Barclays paid a $453 million penalty in 2012, sparking a backlash that forced out former CEO Bob Diamond, led to the British fraud inquiry and prompted an overhaul of rate-setting rules.

The jury was told that two other French bankers, former Barclays colleague Philippe Moryoussef and Christian Bittar, a one-time Deutsche Bank star trader, had already been convicted over the conspiracy.

Bittar, once one of the world's best-paid traders, pleaded guilty in March 2018 and a jury convicted Moryoussef three months later. But he remains in France after fleeing when Bittar's plea was made public. He was tried in absentia.

The jury was asked whether the three defendants had been knowingly involved in the same conspiracy.

Brussels-based Euribor, like its Libor (London interbank offered rate) counterpart, is designed to reflect the cost of borrowing between banks and is set after submitters at a panel of major banks report their estimated costs of borrowing over various periods to an administrator, who calculates an average.

Prosecutors alleged that bankers manipulated rates by nudging them up or down to benefit trading positions, deliberately ignoring rules that they should be set independently of commercial interests and prejudicing the economic interest of others.

The former bankers denied any dishonesty.

They said they had followed instructions and learnt on the job, had acted openly, believed there was a range of equally justifiable rates, that taking account of a bank's commercial interest was common market practice - and that Euribor rates accounted for an insignificant part of their jobs.

A lawyer for Bohart declined to comment. A lawyer for Palombo was not immediately available for comment.



(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by David Evans and Edmund Blair)