Five banks have been fined a total of €1.07bn (£936m) for taking part in foreign exchange trading cartels dubbed “Three Way Banana Split” and “Essex Express”.
Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland were among the lenders handed penalties by the European Commission relating to collusion over trading in 11 currencies dating back more than a decade.
Citigroup, JP Morgan and MUFG were also fined, while a sixth bank, UBS, was named in the investigation but avoided punishment after it blew the whistle on the cartels.
The commission said the traders involved exchanged sensitive information and trading plans and occasionally coordinated trading activities through chatrooms.
Most of the traders knew each other personally.
“Some of the traders created the chatrooms and then invited one another to join, based on their trading activities and personal affinities, creating closed circles of trust,” the commission said.
The “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy” chatroom was so called because all but one participant, James, lived in Essex, and met on a train to London.
Other chatrooms were called “Semi grumpy old men”, “Two and a half men” and “Only Marge”.
Information exchanged on these platforms enabled traders “to make informed market decisions on whether to sell or buy the currencies they had in their portfolios and when”.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “Companies and people depend on banks to exchange money to carry out transactions in foreign countries.
“Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest markets in the world, worth billions of euros every day.
“The commission will not tolerate collusive behaviour in any sector of the financial markets.
“The behaviour of these banks undermined the integrity of the sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers.”
Barclays was fined a total of €210m (£184m) and taxpayer-backed RBS €249m (£218m).
US banks Citigroup and JP Morgan were given penalties of €311m (£272m) and €229m (£200m) while Japan’s MUFG was fined €70m (£61m).
RBS said the fine was covered by money already set aside by its NatWest Markets subsidiary.
Lawyers at City firm RPC said the European Commission findings could prompt those impacted by the cartels, who may include institutional investors, pension funds and large companies, to sue the banks.
Chris Ross, partner at RPC, said: “Given that billions of pounds in forex trade each day, with a huge volume of that going through London, these lawsuits are likely to add up to very substantial amounts.”
Former Uber driver Yusuf Abdi Ali responsible for torture in Somalia, jury finds | World News
A former Uber driver was responsible for torture while serving as a colonel in the Somali army in the 1980s, a jury has found.
Yusuf Abdi Ali, known as “Tukeh” or “Tokeh”, is alleged to have shot a teenager multiple times and left him for dead when an interrogation was interrupted by an insurgent attack in the east African country.
Earlier this month it emerged that Ali, who now lives in the US, was driving for taxi firms Uber and Lyft.
On Tuesday, a civil jury in Virginia awarded Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa $500,000 (£395,000) after finding Ali was responsible for his torture.
Mr Warfaa, a member of the Isaaq clan in northern Somalia, told the court that he was herding camels and cattle for his family’s farm when he was rounded up in a mass arrest In December 1987 over a missing water-tanker truck.
According to the lawsuit, Ali ordered soldiers to bury Mr Warfaa but they realised the then-17-year-old was still alive and instead solicited a bribe from the teenager’s family to let him live.
During the case, Ali, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, acknowledged he had been a Somali colonel but denied torturing Mr Warfaa.
In its ruling, the jury rejected an allegation that Ali was responsible for the attempted extrajudicial killing of Mr Warfaa, even though the Somali citizen testified directly that it was Ali who shot him.
Ali’s lawyer, Joseph Peter Drennan, said the jury’s verdict indicated that it did not believe parts of Mr Warfaa’s testimony.
He added that Ali was only held responsible for torture under the theory that the soldiers who carried out the acts were under his command.
Mr Warfaa, who was helped by the Centre for Justice and Accountability to bring his case to court, said in a statement that the verdict was “a vindication not only for me, but also for many others in Somaliland who suffered under Col Tukeh’s command”.
Earlier this month, CNN reporters went undercover to take an Uber ride with Ali, who told them he worked for the firm and Lyft full-time.
Asked if the application process for drivers was difficult, Ali replied: “They just want your background check, that’s it.”
Ali drove for Uber for about 18 months after passing a screening process which included a review of his criminal history and a scan of government watchlists from the FBI and Interpol, according to the BBC.
Uber told the corporation that Ali has now been “permanently removed” from the app, while Lyft also reportedly said he had been banned from working for the company.
Saudi Arabia: Moderate Islamic scholars ‘to be executed’ | World News
Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to execute three moderate Islamic scholars despite the international outrage that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sheikh Salman al Odah, a Muslim preacher with a million strong social media following, will be killed after the holy month of Ramadan say reports.
Amnesty International says more than 100 people have been executed this year, some beheaded and some crucified, including some younger than 18 when they were arrested.
Many of them have been Shia Muslims. The three named as next in line for execution are all Sunni.
Under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the Saudi regime has been even less tolerant of dissent than before.
Several women driving activists remain in jail even though the government has now ended the ban on women being behind the wheel.
Their relatives say they have been abused and subjected to threats of torture and rape.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul caused international outrage last year and led to intense pressure on the country’s leadership.
The CIA and other observers believe it was carried out on orders from Mohammed bin Salman.
In an interview with Sky News shortly before his death, Mr Khashoggi expressed intense concern about the arrest of the three now facing execution, pointing out they were supporters of the kind of reforms their government claimed to be implementing.
The UK has defended maintaining close ties with the Saudi regime. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has visited the country several times since the Khashoggi murder.
The Foreign Office says those ties help the UK influence the Saudis.
But if these latest reports are true, such influence has failed to change minds in Riyadh.
The Saudi leadership appears undeterred and determined to continue its policy of zero tolerance of dissent with lethal effect.
Two-metre sea level rise would have ‘profound impact on humanity’ | World News
Global sea levels could rise by more than two metres causing catastrophic consequences for the world, according to a team of scientists.
Such a rise could result in the loss of 1.79 million km2 of land, including critical regions of food production, and the potential displacement of up to 187 million people.
Traditional methods for predicting rising sea levels from the melting ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic are based on numerical modelling, but these remain challenging due to changing factors.
A team of international scientists used a technique called structured expert judgement to ask 22 ice sheet experts to estimate plausible ranges for future sea level rises.
They asked them to consider the projected melting of each of the Greenland, West Antarctic and East Antarctic ice sheets under low and high future global temperature rise scenarios.
Lead author professor Jonathan Bamber, from the University of Bristol, said: “Structured expert judgement provides a formal approach for estimating uncertain quantities based on current scientific understanding, and can be useful for estimating quantities that are difficult to model.
“Projections of total global subsequent sea level rise using this method yielded a small but meaningful probability of subsequent sea level rise exceeding two metres by the year 2100 under the high temperature scenario, roughly equivalent to ‘business as usual’, well above the ‘likely’ upper limit presented in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
Prof Bamber added: “Such a rise in global sea level could result in land loss of 1.79 million km2, including critical regions of food production, and potential displacement of up to 187 million people.
“A subsequent sea level rise of this magnitude would clearly have profound consequences for humanity.”
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com.
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