Konstantin Vishnyak, a former VTB Capital Plc banker who put his WhatsApp messages “under the noses of the police”, was acquitted by a London jury in a blow to the Financial Conduct Authority’s insider trading.
Vishnyak was found not guilty after more than three hours of deliberation by the jury and was immediately released by the judge. The FCA prosecutor alleged that the 42-year-old banker removed the application because he knew it could be relevant to an insider trading investigation.
But Vishnyak insisted he had deleted the news because he feared he would be drawn into a “political scandal” if his connections to a Russian suspect in a British homicide investigation were known.
The ruling leaves the FCA empty-handed. While the agency had closed the insider trading investigation against Vishnyak and two other suspects, it had pursued the lesser charges for deletion of the texts, a first for that.
In a statement, the FCA said it was “disappointed with the result but respect the verdict. We will take action if evidence we need is tampered with or destroyed”.
The former banker was arrested at his home in September 2018 by authorities suspected of trading with six companies that received takeover bids. Vishnyak managed to remove the WhatsApp application from his bedroom before handing the second of his two iPhones over to a police officer.
“You delete WhatsApp under the nose of the police. You throw the FCA out of the smell in an interview,” said Rachel Barnes, the agency’s lawyer, during the questioning. “It’s taking a risk, isn’t it?”
Even more embarrassing
Vishnyak’s lawyer told the jury that the content of the news was “far more embarrassing”.
The chats included correspondence with Andrei Lugovoi, a politician wanted by British police for the poisoning of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko, who received a fatal dose of radioactive polonium in his tea in a London restaurant in 2006.
When questioned, Vishnyak said he feared he and his family would be placed on a watch list and that his home would be bugged. He feared that it would become a “bargaining chip” in the context of deteriorating relations between Russia and Britain.
“British juries do not conduct business under suspicion,” said Henry Milner, Vishnyak’s attorney. “My client’s case was that his deletions were private matters, had nothing to do with stocks or insider trading, and the prosecution couldn’t prove otherwise.”
After the verdict, the VTB emphasized that the “FCA” had confirmed that the investigation into Vishnyak had nothing to do with the Russian bank.
Vishynak was suspected of trading tips received from a ring of Moscow friends, including the best man at his wedding. Vishnyak, who had left VTB at the time, made around £ 3.78 million ($ 4.83 million) from the six stocks in question, according to the FCA.
In its insider case, the FCA focused on only the six of about 100 stocks Vishnyak had traded, his attorney Patrick Gibbs said.
A tip from the Moscow group came during a ski vacation in Italy, Vishnyak said in an interview with the FCA. Vishnyak bought a share after one of the people “started talking about information he received”.
The next day there was a takeover announcement, he said.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)