Ex-Barclays Trader Convicted of Fraud May Be Out of U.K.'s Reach

(Bloomberg) -- Former Barclays Plc trader Philippe Moryoussef was in his native France when a London jury found him guilty of a conspiracy to rig an interest-rate benchmark that influences trillions of dollars of pensions and mortgages. He had left London days before the trial began in April.

Fleeing didn’t help Moryoussef’s case. Without a lawyer to defend him, prosecutors and the other four defendants took turns blaming him for the conspiracy to rig Euribor, the euro interbank offered rate.

The jury took four days to find Moryoussef guilty, bringing seven years of investigations towards an end. He became the seventh person to be found guilty of interest-rate manipulation in the U.K. Barclays was among banks that paid about $9 billion in fines.

Still, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office can’t be sure Moryoussef will ever end up in prison.

“In light of the current climate regarding extradition requests, it might be that Mr. Moryoussef escapes justice in the U.K.,” said Aziz Rahman, a lawyer at London-based white collar crime firm Rahman Ravelli.

The SFO declined to comment on how it plans to pursue him, but a lawyer for the agency told the court they will issue an international arrest warrant. Moryoussef’s lawyer, François de Castro, said his client would take his chances with French and European courts.

Moryoussef was convicted of conspiracy, while his friend and former Deutsche Bank AG trader Christian Bittar pleaded guilty in the case. Deutsche Bank executive Achim Kraemer was acquitted by the jury, which was unable to reach a decision on ex-Barclays dealers Carlo Palombo, Colin Bermingham and Sisse Bohart.

The conviction “confirms the particular unfairness of this procedure, which violates both international procedural standards and the objective of judicial cooperation in Europe,” de Castro said in a statement.

Moryoussef attended the first two court hearings in London in the case. It wasn’t until Bittar pleaded guilty and handed himself over to prison wardens that Moryoussef decided he would skip town.

The 50-year-old wasn’t the only Frenchman charged in the case. The SFO also wanted to try former Societe Generale SA trader Stephane Esper, but a French court blocked his extradition, saying he hadn’t committed a crime in France. Four German traders also successfully fought extradition to the U.K.

Moryoussef can now hope for the same kind of protection, but his case is a little different. Unlike Esper, he was working for a British bank and based in London between 2005 and 2007 when he took part in the rate-rigging conspiracy.

And ironically, because Moryoussef initially took part in the proceedings, his disappearance means he’s violated the law again. Not appearing for a trial is considered contempt of court and a violation of his bail conditions. Whether the French courts will still protect him remains to be seen.

"The SFO will possibly find it easier to obtain the extradition of a convicted person," Rahman said. "But as things stand, there are a number of factors that cast at least some doubt on this being a straightforward matter."

Moryoussef can help himself by playing for time -- and hoping for a messy Brexit. The U.K. doesn’t have a security agreement in place with the European Union for when it leaves the bloc next year, which may create an additional hurdle to securing his extradition.

Still, Moryoussef won’t be able to leave France. The U.K. is likely to ask Interpol to circulate a “Red Notice” for police to locate and arrest someone in other countries, said Neil Swift, lawyer with Peters and Peters in London.

“The fact that a person can’t be extradited from one country does not mean that they can freely travel to others,” Swift said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.