Insider trading trio made £590,000 profit

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A top banker made more than half a million pounds for himself, his wife and a friend through insider trading, a court heard today.

Christian Littlewood, 37, used his position as a corporate finance adviser to listen into conversations in city pubs and spy on colleagues' computer screens and documents.

Southwark Crown Court heard his wife used her Chinese name to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in companies he found out were about to be bought.

He would tip off Angie Littlewood, 39, who is also known as Siew Yoon Lew, when he learned the sensitive information that a company's share price was set to increase.

Alongside the couple, self-employed juice bar owner Helmy Omar Sa'aid, 34, also stood in the dock.

The three have all admitted eight charges of insider trading between March 2000 and August 2008.

Between them they invested £2,150,000 and made a profit of £590,000.

Nicholas Dean, prosecuting, said it would have been "convenient" for Mr and Mrs Littlewood to use a name that was not immediately recognisable to casual investigation.

Neither colleagues nor the Financial Services Authority (FSA) would be alerted to the scam if his family name did not appear alongside transactions.

The barrister said: "For almost all of the period, Christian Littlewood was employed by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DKW), an investment bank."

He told the court Littlewood's area of expertise was in mergers and acquisitions, and by the time he left DKW at the end of 2007 he held a position of "some seniority".

His gross salaries, including huge bonuses, ranged from £200,000 to more than £400,000 over the period he abused the information he had access to.

Mr Dean explained that Littlewood would have become aware that "small companies, and not so small companies, were being taken over by bigger companies".

He said the trader looked at information he was allowed to see, but also at data he was not.

The prosecutor said he had "necessary and legitimate access to price sensitive information, and had access to information that was not relevant to him".

He told the court Littlewood worked in an environment where he could quite easily eavesdrop on conversations in a pub near his office, or while he was making a cup of tea, or peer at his colleagues' screens and paperwork.

Although Angie Littlewood acted on her husband's tip-offs, the prosecutor said her role was not inactive.

"She, we say, was no mere cipher," Mr Dean told the court.

He said the Singaporean woman of Chinese origin was qualified as a lawyer and in finance, with two Masters degrees.

Like her husband, she had experience in mergers and acquisitions, the barrister said.

The couple married in 2000 and have three children.

She gave up her job at investment bank UBS in 2001, where she earned £55,000 a year as a corporate financier.

Sa'aid was a friend of Angie Littlewood, but Mr Dean said the businessman did not get on with Christian Littlewood.

However Mr Dean said Christian Littlewood was able to keep tabs on Sa'aid's trading, as he wrote an email to his wife which read "Hel has not sold".

Of the eight charges faced by the three, some relate to deals Littlewood had legitimate access to through his job, and some relate to those he did not.

They will be sentenced later this week.