City Slicker 'tried to conceal his trades from inquiry'

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The Independent Online

James Hipwell, the former "City Slickers" business journalist at The Daily Mirror who is on trial for market abuse, created a "smokescreen" to distract internal investigators from discovering he was trading directly before and after he tipped shares, a court heard yesterday.

Cross-examining Mr Hipwell for a second day, Philip Katz QC, for the prosecution, told the jury at Southwark Crown Court Mr Hipwell had deliberately lied to lawyers from Lovells, the City law firm appointed by the owners of the newspaper, Trinity Mirror, to investigate the share dealings of its staff.

"You were quite deliberately suggesting [to the investigators] that you were having concerns in November 1999 about your tips getting out - and that was a complete and utter smokescreen," Mr Katz told him. "You were the one that was leaking them. You lied about it to protect yourself... not anybody else."

Mr Hipwell denied the allegation, saying he did not recall voicing such concerns to the lawyers. He said he never made a secret of his share trading and was proud of his record as a tipster. Mr Hipwell told the court this week he was told to lie to the internal inquiry by senior staff at the Mirror, to protect the editor, Piers Morgan, who had bought shares in one company.

Responding to Mr Katz's suggestion that his trading had been motivated "out of greed", Mr Hipwell said: "It was nothing to do with greed. It was a matter of being active in a market in which I was writing about."

Mr Katz told the jury Mr Hipwell had invested £36,500 in shares in Viglen, a technology company, in January 2000 - a sum almost equivalent to his salary - the day before a story appeared tipping the stock in the column. Mr Katz said the enormous rise in the share price the next day - from which Mr Hipwell cashed in a £19,500 profit - was sparked by the article.

Mr Hipwell said he "never accepted" that articles written in the Mirror had the power to cause significant shifts in the market, and he bought the shares after he had heard Mr Morgan had bought a large number.Although Mr Morgan told Mr Hipwell's fellow columnist, Anil Bhoyrul, he had bought 20,000 shares worth about £36,000, Mr Hipwell said Mr Morgan had bought more than this.

Mr Katz told Mr Hipwell: "What you intended to do, and knew you were doing... [was] quite deliberately, intentionally, knowingly creating a false impression every time you tipped a share. You knew that's what you were doing and when you were caught, you lied." The case continues.