RBS, UBS traders said to face arrest within month in Libor probe

U.K. prosecutors are poised to arrest former traders and rate setters at UBS AG, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Barclays Plc within a month for questioning over their role in the Libor scandal, a person with knowledge of the probe said.

The arrests will be made by police under the direction of prosecutors at the Serious Fraud Office within the next month, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Arrests in the U.K. are made at an early stage of the investigation, allowing police and prosecutors to question people under caution and may not lead to charges.

The SFO has 40 people working on the probe into manipulation of the London interbank bank offered rate, a benchmark for financial products valued at $360 trillion worldwide, and has involved the City of London Police, said David Green, the agency’s director.

“Significant developments” in the case are coming “in the near future,” Green said yesterday in an interview at his office in London without giving further details and declining to comment on any possible arrests.

The SFO opened the investigation in July at the request of British politicians after Barclays was fined a record 290 million pounds ($462 million) for rate manipulation. Regulators across the globe are investigating claims banks altered submissions that were used to set Libor in an effort to benefit traders, or to appear financially healthier than they were.

The arrests could be temporarily delayed because of disruptions to the SFO’s schedule caused by moving the prosecutor’s offices from Elm Street to Trafalgar Square.

Egregious Attempts

Green said the agency is focusing on the most egregious attempts to manipulate Libor and other related benchmarks, with probes into firms, managers, traders and rate setters at lesser- offenders coming later.

Regulators in the U.S. and U.K. are probing how derivatives traders and bankers who submitted interest-rate data colluded to rig benchmarks to benefit their own trades, and whether banks low-balled submissions in 2008 to hide their true cost of borrowing. Criminal probes by the SFO and U.S. Department of Justice are running in parallel with civil investigations being conducted by the DOJ’s fraud division, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.K. Financial Services Authority.

Barclays spokesman John McGuinness, UBS spokesman Richard Morton and RBS spokesman Michael Strachan all declined to comment.

UBS and RBS are next in line to settle with the regulators, people familiar with the case have said. Edinburgh-based RBS has fired four traders following an internal probe.

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