* Reich, Contogoulas found not guilty within hours in
* Verdicts bring Libor acquittals in UK to eight
* "I just want to go home," says Contogoulas
* Speedy acquittals testament to prosecution case-lawyer
(Adds quotes from Contogoulas, Reich and lawyer, details,
By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON, April 6 Two former junior Barclays
traders have been unanimously acquitted by a London
jury of conspiring to rig Libor benchmark interest rates in a
blow to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Ryan Reich, a 35-year-old American, and Greek national
Stylianos Contogoulas, 45, walked free after their second trial
on a single 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 in London's fourth Libor trial bring to eight
the number of defendants cleared in a five-year criminal inquiry
into whether bankers were dishonest when they manipulated
benchmark rates up to 12 years ago. Five have been convicted.
The jury found Reich not guilty within hours of being sent
to consider its verdict on Wednesday after a six-week trial.
Reporting restrictions were imposed until Contogoulas was
acquitted on Thursday.
Reich, who came to Southwark Crown Court to support
Contogoulas, said he was saddened it had taken eight years to
prove that, as a 24-year-old trader, he had done his job
honestly, appropriately and according to the rules at the time.
"I cannot help but note that this trial was the first time
that any jury has actually been asked to consider whether as a
matter of fact any trader deliberately broke the rules or caused
false Libor (rates) to be submitted," he said in a nod to the
judge's directions to the jury.
Standing on Southwark Crown Court's steps, Contogoulas said
simply: "I just want to go home to my wife and kids."
Jurors stepped up to shake his hand. "If you see Reich, wish
him well," said one.
SFO prosecutor Emma Deacon declined to comment. The SFO
noted the acquittals in a brief statement.
CHEQUERED HIT RATE
Barclays was the first of 11 banks and brokerages to pay
hefty fines for Libor-related misconduct in 2012, sparking a
political backlash that forced out senior executives including
former CEO Bob Diamond, prompted the SFO investigation and
brought in new laws to criminalise rate rigging.
Some lawyers say the unpredictable nature of criminal
prosecutions and the English jury trial system means the SFO,
which has been dogged by speculation that Prime Minister Theresa
May might merge it into a national crime-fighting body, should
not be judged by its latest loss or win.
The agency has been praised by some lawmakers for clinching
a handful of corporate plea deals that include a 671 million
pound ($840 million) deferred prosecution agreement with
Rolls-Royce over widespread bribery in January.
But Jonathan Pickworth, a lawyer at White & Case which was
not involved in the case, said the speedy acquittal "tells us
all we need to know about what the jury thought of the
The SFO had alleged Reich and Contogoulas plotted with other
Barclays staff between June 2005 and September 2007 to skew
Libor (London interbank offered rate), a benchmark for rates on
around $450 trillion of financial contracts and loans worldwide.
The jury was presented with computer messages that Reich and
Contogoulas sent to the bank's Libor submitters, responsible for
sending the bank's daily cost of borrowing estimates to the
banking industry association that administered Libor at the
time, requesting preferential rates.
But the men denied dishonesty, arguing that their bosses had
condoned such requests, that they had communicated openly and
that banks had commonly submitted rates with a commercial bias -
a practice tolerated by senior industry figures at the time.
Reich told the court that it was only at his trial, some 10
years after the events, that he was told Libor submitters were
not allowed to take financial interests into consideration.
During the trial the SFO's only banking industry expert
admitted he had broken court rules by sending texts and emails
to contacts, while giving evidence in court, to check he was
answering basic questions correctly.
Prosecution witness John Ewan, the former Libor manager of
the British Bankers' Association that oversaw Libor, also
conceded that a bank did not break Libor rules at the time if it
submitted any rate within a permissible market range.
Matthew Frankland, a lawyer at Byrne and Partners who acted
for one of the former Barclays bankers convicted last year, said
he was "actively considering" whether new disclosures in the
retrial might prompt a fresh appeal.
The verdicts mark an end to the SFO's current Libor trials.
But it has also charged five men and one woman with conspiracy
to defraud in connection with an investigation into the setting
of Euribor, a Brussels-based euro benchmark. The six, who deny
wrongdoing, are due to stand trial in September.
(Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Greg Mahlich)