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Ex-HSBC banker Mark Johnson faces having to return to US prison over £3.5Bn energy deal fraud

NEW Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne has pleaded with the government to “fix it” so a Burley banker convicted of a $3.5bn fraud in the US can serve his prison term in the UK.

Mark Johnson has been ordered to return to the US to finish the remainder of his two-year term three weeks after his second Covid-19 vaccination dose or by August 1st – whichever comes first.

The former HSBC foreign currency executive was handed the sentence and a $300,000 fine in April 2018 after being found guilty by a New York jury of nine counts of fraud and one of conspiracy.

Mark Johnson served only a few weeks of his two-year sentence before being released to appeal (47492975)
Mark Johnson served only a few weeks of his two-year sentence before being released to appeal (47492975)

Sir Desmond made his plea during an exchange in the House of Commons. While he did not name Mr Johnson directly, he referred to a “constituent” and cited a prison transfer agreement between the US and UK.

“In the particular circumstance, and given the powerful case I have made in correspondence, can the minister fix it for my constituent to commence his sentence in the UK?” Sir Desmond asked junior justice minister Alex Chalk.

Mr Chalk replied that the offender had to serve some time in a US jail before they could apply to the authorities there to return home.

After Mr Johnson’s conviction, he served a brief spell behind bars in the US in 2018 before launching appeals against his trial verdict, for which he was bailed and allowed back to the UK.

His lawyers argued his case – eventually in the Supreme Court – and unsuccessfully sought a re-run of his original trial. That prompted a US judge to order his return.

Speaking to the A&T, Sir Desmond said: “In the case to which I was referring in the Commons, my constituent did indeed commence his sentence in the USA for a period before release pending his appeals.

“I consider that it is therefore proper for an application for transfer to be made to the US authorities.”

But the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) told the A&T that the offender must be in custody in the US before applying to serve the term in the UK. The final decision is made by the International Prisoners Transfer Unit in the US Department of Justice.

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.

The case came 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 – 0.2% of the original deal. A secret recording caught Mr Johnson saying: “F***ing Christmas” when told the 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 the case against him was dropped.

Asked about Mr Johnson’s case, Sir Desmond added: “All I can say about Mr Johnson is that, from what I have read when I followed his case in the press, I was surprised at his conviction, and I was surprised by the failure of his appeals, but that is not a parliamentary matter for me.”

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