New appeal in the US for Forest money trader convicted of £3.5bn fraud

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Mark Johnson appeal
Mark Johnson was HSBC Bank’s head of foreign exchange cash trading

A BURLEY currency trader who faces jail in the US unless he can overturn his conviction for an energy deal fraud worth £3.5bn has launched a new legal challenge.

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Mark Johnson’s lawyers have appealed a ruling which refuses to quash his conviction and rerun his original trial at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The latest claim, seen by the A&T, argues a defendant with a similar case to Johnson had their challenge granted, so the same standards should apply for Johnson.

The defence team claims both cases relate to “unconstitutional” instructions given to a trial jury – arguing that in Johnson’s case comments made by the trial judge to the jury implied the defendant had a motive to lie in his evidence and undermined his presumption of innocence.

If the Johnson’s latest appeal fails it will send the public “mixed signals” about the state of the law in New York and suggest “there is no ‘equal justice under law’ because similarly-situated defendants received different outcomes for no discernible reason”, the latest claim argues.

“Fundamental fairness demands that similarly situated defendants be treated similarly; ‘The integrity and legitimacy of our criminal justice system depend upon consistency, predictability, and even handedness’,” the defence team add.

As reported in the A&T the former HSBC foreign currency executive was given a two-year jail sentence and $300,000 fine in April 2018 having been convicted by a jury of nine counts of fraud and one of conspiracy at a high-profile trial in New York.

The case emanated from a complex transaction in 2011 in which Mr Johnson was found to have manipulated currency values for the benefit of himself and about $8m for the bank.

Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy had asked HSBC to convert proceeds from the sale of an Indian subsidiary from dollars into pounds.

Mr Johnson’s trial hinged in part on whether he and HSBC owed a fiduciary responsibility to the oil company compelling them to find the cheapest possible rate for a large transaction.

When the trade was executed it netted the bank an £8m profit – or just 0.2% of the original deal. A secret recording caught Mr Johnson saying: “F***ing Christmas” when told that figure.

But after the conviction financial experts raised questions over the case and claimed that, should the guilty verdicts stand, there would be huge implications for foreign exchange traders.

Co-defendant Stuart Scott, who denied any wrongdoing, successfully challenged an extradition order and had the case against him dropped. Other UK traders subsequently accused of wrongdoing went on trial in the US and were acquitted.

Mr Johnson went to prison after the guilty verdicts but was released just weeks into his sentence when he appealed.

His challenge, supported by global financial group the ACI Financial Markets Association, argued his conduct was not criminal and attacked the US Department of Justice’s case as “ever-shifting”.

His legal team, led by attorney Alexandra Shapiro, have insisted Johnson is innocent and vowed to “explore every legal avenue possible to clear his name”.

During his banking career Mr Johnson worked in London and New York while living in Burley with his children and wife, Diane. He played several seasons with Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club, making appearances for the first XV and on occasion captaining the third team.

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