‘No Money,’ ‘No Motive:’ Case Against Ex-UBS Officer Called Weak

(Bloomberg) -- The lawyer for a day trader charged with receiving illegal tips from a UBS Group AG compliance officer told a London court that the case only emerged from a probe into a much wealthier investor.

Investigators were already probing Alshair Fiyaz, a flamboyant multi-millionaire who bought a yacht that was previously owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, when they came across Walid Choucair, Richard Wormald, Choucair’s lawyer, told jurors.

"Mr. Fiyaz was being secretly recorded as part of an investigation," Wormald said during his opening statement Tuesday. "Importantly that investigation was not into Mr. Choucair. Mr. Choucair was not the target of that investigation. Mr. Fiyaz was." Fiyaz isn’t on trial and hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

Choucair, 40, denies obtaining secret deals information from former UBS compliance officer Fabiana Abdel-Malek and says that he got tips from a handful of other well-informed traders and financial journalists. Prosecutors from the Financial Conduct Authority say Choucair made 1.4 million pounds ($1.8 million) from tips on at least five deals between 2013 and 2014.

Wormald ridiculed the prosecution case as being entirely based on circumstantial evidence, with no direct witnesses, no phone messages containing price-sensitive information and inconclusive evidence relating to whether Choucair and Abdel-Malek met on specific dates.

“We say it’s weak,” Wormald said of the prosecution case. “In Miss Abdel-Malek’s case, there is simply no motive, because there is no evidence that she received a fee; no money at all. No messages, no meet ups, for Miss Abdel-Malek no money.”

The prosecution is painting a misleading picture of the trades and Abdel-Malek’s access to confidential information, Wormald said. Choucair placed 103 trades during the period, while Abdel-Malek accessed more than 1,100 transaction records on UBS’s deals database, he said.

A wider view shows that Choucair was in constant touch with other traders such as Fiyaz before, during and after the transactions, Wormald said.

"Their trades and profits in these very stocks dwarfed those of Mr. Choucair," Wormald said. "Mr. Choucair’s case is that it was during these calls and texts that he got his information from these traders."

Wormald said that Choucair also spoke to journalists, including former Bloomberg News employee Jeff McCracken, to get information.

Abdel-Malek’s lawyer, Julian Christopher, said that his client was a mere friend of Choucair and didn’t share work-related information with him. Abdel-Malek, then 30, was "bright" and "ambitious," and "is quite simply not someone who would’ve done what the prosecution alleges," Christopher said.

"She had nothing to gain," he said. "She had everything to lose."

Abdel-Malek accessed the UBS deals database to educate herself in how transactions progressed and not to harvest information, Christopher said, adding that leaks on major deals were commonplace due to the high number of bankers, lawyers and accountants involved.

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