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FuturaGene in link to FSA insider probe

Steve Dinneen
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TWO major shareholders in biotech firm FuturaGene are at the centre of the massive insider trading investigation being undertaken by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Iranian national Iraj Parvizi, who owns a 15.7 per cent stake in the firm was arrested on Tuesday. He had taken his holding in the Israeli company to 15.7 per cent on 16 Febuary – just days before a bid was announced.

Also being questioned is veteran stockbroker Ben Anderson.

Police were waiting for him as he flew back from St Lucia yesterday. The former employee of Rafael Zorn has a five per cent stake in FuturaGene, according to stock exchange announcements.

Shares in the firm have rocketed 70 per cent since November in expectation of a bid.

A FuturaGene spokesman told City A.M. last night that Parvizi is not privy to sensitive company information.

The Iranian national, who is though to have ties to Dubai, is a director of Romford-based Aria Capital.

His Mayfair flat is thought to be one of the premises raided on Tuesday morning in a joint operation between the FSA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). It is understood that both Parvizi and Anderson deny the allegations.

A total of seven people are in police custody in connection with what the FSA describes as a “sophisticated and long-running” insider trading ring.

The series of raids across 16 office and residential premises has caused a storm across the City.

Investment firm Gartmore was forced to put out a statement categorically denying it was being investigated after its shares tumbled yesterday.

Graeme Shelley, a trader at Novum Securities was named yesterday as one of the men being questioned.

He joins Julian Rifat, a London-based equity execution trader at hedge fund Moore Capital; Clive Roberts, head of European sales trading at Exane, which is part owned by BNP Paribas and Martyn Dodgson, a managing director in the corporate broking department at Deutsche Bank.

The institutions have all confirmed they are cooperating with police over the incident. It is believed the men were trading on their personal accounts. They will be released on police bail after questioning.

The operation is the result of three years’ investigation by 143 FSA enforcement officers, headed up by Margaret Cole.