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Anti-fraud agency hints at inquiry into Libor scandal


Britain’s anti-fraud agency is examining information from a global investigation into the possible manipulation of currency markets, in the first sign that it might follow the United States in launching a criminal investigation.

Britain is keen to be at the forefront of a global inquiry into the $5trn-a-day (£2.9trn) foreign exchange market, partly because about 40 per cent of it is based in London. Britain’s finance industry watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), began its own inquiry last year.

“The SFO [Serious Fraud Office] is receiving and examining complex data on this topic. If and when we open a criminal investigation, that decision will be announced in the usual way,” David Green, head of the SFO, said.

The US Department of Justice launched its criminal inquiry last October. But the SFO tends to be late to the party when it comes to global investigations, partly because of a tight annual budget. This forces it to ask its government paymasters for specific funds to pursue complex inquiries.

However, in a parallel global inquiry into whether traders manipulated Libor benchmark interest rates, the agency has now charged 12 people – more than the eight charged in the US – and is the only prosecutor to have brought defendants to court.