(Bloomberg) -- A former Barclays Plc trader lost an attempt to have an appeals court throw out his conviction for Libor-rigging, as judges rejected complaints about a key witness for the prosecution.
Alex Pabon’s request was thrown out by the Court of Appeal in London Tuesday, months after he had been released from prison. The ruling makes it less likely that similar convictions would be overturned, securing those of other bankers caught up in the Libor scandal, including former UBS Group AG trader Tom Hayes.
Pabon’s appeal had been based on the claim that statements made by a prosecution witness, Saul Haydon Rowe, on Libor could no longer be considered credible after it emerged he’d asked friends for help during court breaks. Rowe had also been a witness in the other Libor-rigging cases.
"We do not think that Rowe impacted at all or sufficiently on the key issue in the trial so as to affect the safety of the appellant’s conviction," Appeals court Judge Peter Gross said in the judgment.
Pabon, 39, was one of four former Barclays traders jailed in July 2016 for manipulating the London interbank interest rate, or Libor, a benchmark used to value trillions of dollars worth of financial products. Last year, he was released early from his 33-month sentence and returned to his native America.
Rowe’s failings were exposed during the retrial of two other Barclays traders, who were acquitted last year. Within an hour of taking the stand, Rowe had texted another trader asking her to do "30 minutes (paid!) work tonight," according to the judgment.
"Put bluntly, Rowe signally failed to comply with his basic duties as an expert," Gross said. "He strayed into areas in his evidence when it was beyond his expertise. In this regard, he was no more than an enthusiastic amateur."
Gross in November said he was "deeply troubled" that the Serious Fraud Office, which prosecuted the case, had used an expert witness that behaved the way Rowe did. In Tuesday’s ruling, Gross said he accepted the SFO’s decision to use him as a "human face" to introduce uncontroversial banking and trading concepts.
It was Rowe who went "gravely wrong" by straying from his topic, creating an "embarrassing debacle" for the SFO, Gross said.
Rowe denied at the time he misled the SFO and jurors about his expertise, though he did acknowledge texting traders he knew for help on some terms while on the witness stand. He didn’t immediately respond to a message left on his mobile phone.
Rowe also testified at the 2015 trial of Hayes, who is serving an 11-year prison term. Hayes said in a statement that Rowe’s testimony was markedly different in his case than it was a year later at the Pabon trial.
“The nature of the evidence given by Mr. Rowe in my trial was deeply alarming and was instrumental in causing my conviction,” said Hayes, who has exhausted his court appeals, but is challenging the verdict through the Criminal Cases Review Commission. “Rowe repeatedly ventured into areas in which he has admitted that he lacked expertise, some of which went to the core of my defense, and he gave false and misleading evidence before my jury.”
Rowe, whom the SFO paid 400,000 pounds ($555,000) for his work, was a credit trader for about 15 years at firms including Salomon Brothers and BNP Paribas. He co-founded the expert witness service used by the SFO, Turing Experts Ltd., in 2013. Turing Experts has since rebranded as Global Financial Experts and Rowe no longer works there.
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