A MILLIONAIRE currency trader from Hampshire is facing up to 20 years in jail after defrauding an energy company in a £2.7bn currency deal.

Former HSBC executive Mark Johnson has been convicted of nine charges of fraud and conspiracy following a month-long trial in New York.

The 51-year-old father of six was found to have manipulated currency values, making £5.5 million for HSBC at the expense of its client.

Johnson, who owns a £1.8 million mansion in Burley, is a keen rugby player who formerly captained a side at Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club.

In 2011 Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy asked HSBC to convert proceeds from the sale of an Indian subsidiary from dollars into pounds.

But Johnson took part in a practice known as "front running", which involves ramping up the price of sterling in advance of an exchange.

During the trial it was alleged that Johnson and another HSBC executive bought sterling ahead of the deal, inflating the currency's value and thus forcing Cairn to pay a higher price.

US prosecutors played tape recordings of phone calls, including one in which Mr Johnson said: "I think we got away with it."

He also discussed how high the pound might go before Cairn would "squeal".

Kenneth Blanco, of the US Justice Department, said: "The defendant manipulated the foreign exchange market for the benefit of the bank and his bonus pool, to the detriment of the bank's client."

But Johnson said buying sterling before a Cairn-type deal was an accepted practice known as pre-hedging and claimed the company got a fair price.

Speaking after the trial his attorney, John "Rusty" Wing, said: "They've convicted an innocent man."

HSBC has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case but is involved in settlement talks with the Justice Department and US regulators.

Johnson is the first financier to be tried in the US on currency rigging charges, left the bank earlier this year.

As reported in the Daily Echo, he was arrested in 2016 as he prepared to board a flight from New York to the UK.

Speaking at the time, one of Johnson's neighbours spoke of her shock at his arrest, describing him as a "lovely man" whose detention had come as a "total surprise".

HSBC has declined on comment on Johnson's conduct and conviction.

His alleged co-conspirator, Stuart Scott, has also left the bank and is currently fighting extradition to the US.