A former UBS compliance officer and a day trader have failed in a bid to have their convictions for insider trading overturned by the UK’s Criminal Court of Appeal.
Fabiana Abdel-Malek, who worked at UBS, and Walid Choucair, were both convicted of five offences of insider trading last year after a trial at Southwark Crown Court brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The high-profile case featured evidence about the use of secret pay-as-you-go “burner” phones as well as meetings at Tramp, the upmarket club in London’s West End.
The FCA alleged that Abdel-Malek, 38, passed confidential tips on five deals that UBS was working on to Choucair, 41, who would trade using contracts-for-difference, netting himself £1.4m in profits between 2013 and 2014.
During the trial the FCA relied heavily on circumstantial evidence such as the use of “burner phones” and Abdel-Malek’s access of the UBS records, including the price sensitive information on transactions, when as a compliance officer she had no business reason to do so.
While the prosecution did not claim Abdel-Malek received any money for passing on inside information, they claimed Choucair gave her access to his lifestyle and took her to upmarket private members' clubs. Both denied wrongdoing at trial, but were found guilty last June and were sentenced to three years in prison
During the trial Choucair denied that he had received inside information from Abdel-Malek, who he knew through his mother, and instead had swapped market colour and trading ideas with an informal network of traders who were taking bigger positions, including Alshair Fiyaz, the multi-millionaire owner of St Tropez polo club. Mr Fiyaz denies any wrongdoing and has never been questioned by regulators or convicted of any offence.
Choucair and Abdel-Malek claimed in their appeal last month that there was a “systemic failure” of evidence disclosure to the defence teams by the FCA during the trial which made their convictions unsafe.
However, on Wednesday the Criminal Court of Appeal found there was no unfairness in the trial process.
In his ruling, Lord Justice Nigel Davis of the Criminal Court of Appeal said of the defendants: “They gave their explanations over many days of oral evidence. The jury, having evaluated their evidence, did not believe them. The jury were made sure, on all the evidence, that the counts of insider trading on the indictment had been proved.”
The FCA said it welcomed the court’s decision. “The appeal was an attempt to undermine the jury’s verdict by collaterally attacking the FCA,” said Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA.
Choucair and Abdel-Malek must now complete their prison sentences.
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