Kenneth Clarke: Put rogue bankers on trial

The Telegraph By Julie Henry

10:40AM BST 30 Jun 2012

Kenneth Clarke has said that it is easier to “get away with” financial crime than practically any other kind.

The justice secretary said that the UK’s track record on prosecuting financial crime was poor and that the work of the Serious Fraud Office should be reviewed.

Mr Clarke was commenting on the two scandals to rock the City this week. The rate-rigging scandal at Barclays has led to calls for a criminal investigation and the resignation of the bank’s chief executive Bob Diamond.

Taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland has also confirmed it was being investigated for manipulating the rates at which banks lend to each other, known as Libor.

Days later, an inquiry by the Financial Services Authority uncovered “serious failings” in the sale of complex financial products to small businesses.

The justice secretary said that if bankers were found to have breached the law, they should be brought to trial.

“We are very bad a prosecuting financial crime in this country,” Mr Clarke said in an Interview with Radio 4’s Today programme. “The new National Crime Agency should look at the record of the Serious Fraud Office. I suspect that financial crime is easier to get away with in this country than practically any other crime.

“If the bankers have committed criminal offences they should be brought to trail.”

He described the behaviour of bankers in the latest scandals to rock the financial world as “shocking”.

“They have distorted vital interest rates and sold product that are worthless to some of the people that have bought them,” he said.

The language used by traders and staff at Barclays who were involved in rate-fixing, revealed in a series of emails, was also criticised.

“Then there is the moral bankruptcy of comments being made by the people who are doing it,” said Mr Clarke.

He called for stronger regulation and said that that ministers must “resist the powerful lobbies that will claim regulations are damaging”.

“There plainly needs to be a cultural change in the banking system,” he added.

Ed Miliband has called for a full-scale public inquiry into banking culture and practises after the City was rocked by two major scandals in the space of a week.

The Labour leader said the industry was plagued by an “institutional corruption” that could only be eradicated by introducing a tough new code of conduct and jail sentences for immoral bankers who abuse the system.

His comments were echoed by Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King who demanded a “real change in culture” as Britain’s lenders were left reeling following a week blighted by controversy.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) a new body of operational crime fighters with a focus on public protection, will be up and running by 2013.

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