A WEALTHY currency trader from Hampshire has been jailed for two years after defrauding a client out of millions of pounds.

Mark Johnson, former head of HSBC Bank's foreign exchange cash trading, was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court after being found guilty last year of fraud and conspiracy.

The 51-year-old father of six from Burley must also pay a fine of $300,000 - £215,000.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) had called for him to be jailed for at least seven years.

But US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis handed him a shorter term - partly on the grounds that as a UK national he would be separated from his family.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Johnson was convicted of nine charges, each one of which carried a maximum 20-year jail term.

He and a colleague were found to have manipulated currency values, making £5.5 million for HSBC - which was not accused of any wrongdoing - 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 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 DoJ 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."

Johnson's co-defendant, Stuart Scott, 45, who is also facing fraud charges, is still in the UK fighting extradition to the US.

Last night Cairn Energy declined to comment on Johnson's conviction and sentence.


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