NEW YORK, Oct 20 (Reuters) - An ex-Rabobank trader from Britain testifying against two former colleagues accused of manipulating Libor had, prior to agreeing to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, told an English lawmaker that he faced pleading guilty to crimes he “did not commit.”
The statement by Paul Robson was contained in a letter introduced as a defense exhibit on Tuesday during the trial in Manhattan federal court of his former Rabobank colleagues, Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti, who prosecutors say manipulated U.S. dollar and yen Libor rates.
Robson, 46, is the second of three former Rabobank traders to take the stand at the trial after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department.
Lawyers for Allen, 44, and Conti, 46, have sought to discredit the cooperating witnesses, saying they panicked and cut deals in hopes of lenient sentences.
The May 2014 letter to Mark Francois, a member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford, England, came after U.S. prosecutors charged Robson that January with engaging in a scheme to manipulate yen Libor rates.
In the letter, Robson complained about being tried in the United States and said he either faced a tougher sentence if he fought extradition and or the possibility of pleading guilty to “charges I simply did not commit.”
Robson subsequently pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in August 2014. Allen, Rabobank’s former global head of liquidity and finance, and Conti, a senior trader, were indicted two months later.
The letter was introduced by a lawyer for Allen as an exhibit during cross-examination of Robson during his second day of testimony.
Asked by Michael Schachter, Allen’s lawyer, if he lied about Allen’s role in the alleged scheme as part of the deal, Robson denied doing so. But he acknowledged he cut a deal to avoid a lengthy prison term.
“I was keen to avoid jail if possible,” he said.
Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, is a short-term rate banks charge each other for loans that is calculated based on submissions by a panel of banks. It underpins hundreds of trillions of dollars in financial products globally.
The case is the first by the Justice Department to go to trial following investigations by U.S. and European authorities into whether banks submitted artificial rate estimates to bolster profits on trading derivatives tied to Libor.
Those investigations resulted in charges against 22 people in the United States and U.K. and around $9 billion in regulatory settlements with financial institutions, including Rabobank, which in 2013 agreed to pay $1 billion.
The case is U.S. v. Allen, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00272. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Christian Plumb)