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LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - Two former Barclays traders were on Thursday acquitted by a jury of conspiring to rig crucial benchmark interest rates.
Ryan Reich, a 35-year-old American, and Greek national Stylianos Contogoulas, 45, walked free after their second trial on a charge of conspiracy to defraud. The first jury to examine their case could not reach a verdict last year, although four Barclays co-defendants were jailed.
The verdicts, which were unanimous, bring to eight the number of defendants who have been acquitted in a five-year, UK criminal investigation into whether bankers acted dishonestly when they tried to influence benchmark interest rates.
The Serious Fraud Office had accused Reich and Contogoulas of plotting with other Barclays staff between June 2005 and September 2007 to skew Libor (London interbank offered rate), a central cog in the financial system and benchmark for rates on around $450 trillion of financial contracts and loans worldwide.
Barclays was the first of 11 powerful banks and brokerages to be slapped with a fine for Libor misconduct in 2012, sparking a political backlash that forced out senior executives including former CEO Bob Diamond, prompted the SFO investigation and new laws to criminalise rate rigging. (Reporting By Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)