Friday Jun 28 2019

Pair sentenced to three years in jail for insider trading

LONDON: A judge at the Southwark Crown Court on Thursday sentenced to prison for three years each former UBS compliance officer Fabiana Abdel-Malek and her trader friend Walid Anis Choucair after a jury found that the UBS executive leaked tips to her friend who made £1.4million in a year from the conspiracy between 2013 and 2014.

Judge Joanna Korner ruled that Fabiana, 36, and day trader Walid, must serve at least half the term in prison after the duo were found guilty of all five counts of insider trading.

Fabiana Abdel-Malek gave secret information through burner phones, pay-as-you-go sims and secret meetings to Walid Choucair on five takeover targets. Britain's financial watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had brought the insider trading case.

The trial lasted for about two months and a jury of 12 found after deliberations of over a week that Fabiana Abdel Malek was guilty of passing information to Choucair on deals involving Targa, BRE, Elizabeth Arden, North Sttar and Kabel Deutschland.

The judge called Abdel-Malek a “gamekeeper” who used bank materials to become an “accomplished poacher” and told Choucair his motive was “greed”.

She said: “It’s clear to me that you enjoyed and made full use of entry into the rather louche lifestyle that was being led by Choucair,” Korner said. “There is no question that both of your actions were deliberate, dishonest and committed over a period of a year. ”

The judge added: “On the one hand I find you (Mr Chocuair) did corrupt Ms Abdel-Malek into committing these offences and you are the one who received the monies: on the other hand, you, Ms Abdel-Malek committed a gross breach of trust which will affect the reputation of UBS and without that breach taking place these offences would not have happened. 

"The fact that your benefit does not approach your co-defendant’s does not in my judgement mean that you (Ms Abdel-Malek) should receive a lesser sentence and there is no reason to make a distinction between the two of you.”

Fabiana and Choucair were arrested and charged in 2015.

During the trial, Choucair claimed a larger network of traders joined in including wealthy Pakistani businessman Alshair Fiyaz, Nathaniel Glas, and Alexis Kuperfis and all of them traded while sharing tips and information with each other.

The Pakistani-origin entrepreneur, philanthropist and polo enthusiast was not at Southwark Crown Court when the claims were made and the FCA has not accused him of any wrongdoing.

After the pair were sentenced to jail, the legal team of Alshair Fiyaz regretted that Walid Choucair attempted to deflect blame from his own actions by blaming others. The statement said that Fiyaz has not been under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority or any other authority in relation to the matters concerning Mr Choucair, or indeed in relation to any other such allegations.

“He has at no time been questioned, charged or convicted in relation to financial misconduct of any kind in the UK or any other jurisdiction. Mr Fiyaz vehemently denies any reported claims designed to portray him as a trader engaged in unethical practices.

"He is a highly respected businessman and philanthropist who has worked extremely hard in order to achieve success in his professional life.”

Ben Russell of NCA said in a statement: “Today’s verdict sends a strong message that involvement in insider dealing has serious consequences. The actions of those involved have a far-reaching impact.

"The use of well-placed insiders committing market abuse, often working in trusted positions within the financial sector, can have a substantial impact on the UK’s reputation as a safe place to conduct business.”

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement at the FCA, said: “Abdel-Malek dishonestly and surreptitiously acquired confidential and valuable information from her employer and passed it to Choucair who made substantial illegal trading profits.

"Both defendants were well aware they were committing serious criminal offences and engaged in elaborate schemes and lies to disguise what they were doing. This was not opportunistic, but calculated and organised. It was insider dealing at its most venal.”

Alshair Fiyaz has done a considerable charitable work in many parts of the world.

After the devastating earthquake of 2005 in Pakistan and Kashmir which left an estimated 70,000 dead and thousands as homeless, he joined hands with the UNICEF through his charitable foundation ALFI to provide 16,000 corrugated sheets for temporary winter shelter to 1,600 families suffering from the destruction of their homes. 

The aid allowed for short-term emergency accommodation, as well as long-term planning for permanent multiple housing for families still living in camps. 

He also provided funds for rehabilitation of orphaned and deprived children and has worked against Polio through the UNICEF, according to a citation.