The lawyer for one of the three former brokers at the heart of the “Lord Libor” rate-rigging allegations has questioned why they should be facing jail terms of up to 30 years in the US when their crimes were said to have taken place in the UK.
Daniel Wilkinson, who was a desk director at City firm ICAP, faces fraud charges brought by the US Department of Justice, together with colleagues Colin Goodman and Darrell Read.
Wilkinson’s lawyer Matthew Frankland, of Byrne & Partners, said a key reason for the US charges appeared to be the fact that communications in the alleged conspiracy took place via a server based in New York.
“There is almost no ground or justification to prosecute them in the States,” said Mr Frankland.
He said Britain’s Serious Fraud Office was “perfectly competent” to deal with such allegations.
Mr Frankland said he did not know whether an extradition process had begun.
He added: “I just can’t understand why individuals should face the prospect of being separated from their families and incarcerated in the US pending their trial when there is no common sense reason for doing so.”
Allegations filed last week at a Manhattan court centred on claims that the men participated in a scheme to manipulate interbank lending rates for the Japanese yen to help a trader who worked for the Swiss bank UBS in order to make millions of pounds on financial markets.
Emails suggested the trader was told that Goodman – known as “Lord Libor” – would be “OK with an annual champagne shipment, a few p*** ups... and a small bonus every now and then”.
The three men were last week charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud which could land each with up to 30 years in jail – on the same day ICAP was handed £54m in fines by US and UK regulators.
Mr Frankland said there was “real concern” at the prospect of the three men facing such sentences in the US which in the UK are scarcely seen even for terrorism and murder.
All the witnesses would be in Britain where the crimes were allegedly carried out.
Mr Frankland said Johnson, who is in his 40s and lives in the south of England, denied any wrongdoing or dishonesty. Goodman also lives in England while Read is based in New Zealand.
London-based ICAP is run by former Conservative Party treasurer Michael Spencer.