The first signs of trouble for prosecutors came about three weeks into the trial.
Their witness was a government investigator called to lay out details of the probe into the alleged rigging of a key interest rate by a group of brokers who faced up to 20 years in prison.
Bloomberg News reports that as the investigator went through a calendar his agency had compiled listing days the rates had allegedly been manipulated, his team admitted they had some of the dates wrong. Waving the schedule as he spoke, defence lawyer Philip Hackett asked if the prosecution was 'making this up as they go along'.
Sitting near the front of the courtroom, Mukul Chawla, the chief prosecutor from the Serious Fraud Office, silently shook his bewigged head. The case was supposed to have been another triumph for authorities seeking to punish those held responsible for abuses uncovered in the years since the 2008 global financial crisis. Instead, the jury acquitted the defendants after less than a day of deliberations.
'Apart from being acutely embarrassing to the SFO, these verdicts show how difficult it is to demonstrate criminal activity by individuals for this type of market misconduct', said Alison McHaffie, a regulatory partner with law firm CMS. 'It is always easier to bring regulatory action rather than criminal prosecution'.
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