Accused Barclays trader was a Libor "rookie", not an expert on the benchmark rate, court told

 
Hayley Kirton
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Stylianos Contogoulas spent a chunk of his early career at the bank working on computer projects, the court was told (Source: Getty)

A former Barclays trader accused of playing a role in rigging Libor was merely a "rookie" trying to learn in an environment likened to studying medicine under Dr Frankenstein, his lawyer told the court today.

The Serious Fraud Office has claimed Stylianos Contogoulas, 45, and Ryan Reich, 35, played roles in a conspiracy to fix the benchmark rate, in particular the US dollar linked version of the rate, between 1 June 2005 and 1 September 2007.

John Ryder, the lawyer for Contogoulas, told the court his client, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science, spent a chunk of his early career at the bank working on IT projects rather than learning the ins and outs of trading.

Ryder noted his client was two and a half years into his Barclays job before he was given his first small trading book and as a result "he missed out on all the instruction that would have been expected and would have taken place" had he been trading from day one.

"He was a rookie, even though he had been there all that time," Ryder said of his client's level of knowledge by the time he took up is role on the US dollar desk.

Ryder added that, by the time Contogoulas joined the dollar trading desk, the act of requesting Libor rates was so ingrained that trying to learn on the job was like "learning medicine from Dr Frankenstein".

The barrister claimed that, if his client had felt his actions were dishonest, there was no way he would have made his requests in writing.

"He did because there didn't seem to be anything wrong with it," Ryder said.

Ryder told the court he felt the prosecution had failed to provide enough concrete evidence against his client in its closing speech last Friday.

"What it reflects frankly is, as the evidence has emerged, it has not supported the suspicions which put these men where now they are," Ryder continued.

Instead, he claimed, the fraud squad's case rested heavily on the theme of "he must have known" without proving that he actually did.

Meanwhile, Adrian Darbishire, the lawyer for Reich, warned the case risked being swayed by hindsight, given the change in attitudes about the benchmark in the years since the case was focused on.

"People sometimes talk about the beauty of hindsight...In hindsight we get a better or a clearer picture of how things were," he said. "It's not true. With hindsight, you get a different picture of how things work."

The case, which is being heard at Southwark Crown Court, is ongoing.

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