The Serious Fraud Office’s use of an expert witness who lacked expertise has been described as a “debacle’’ by the Appeal Court.
Lord Justice Gross warned SFO prosecutors that that was the belief of the Appeal Court regarding the SFO's use of Saul Haydon Rowe as a witness in the trials for Libor fixing. The comment was made at a hearing brought by Alex Pabon, a Libor trader who is appealing his conviction last year for conspiracy to defraud.
Lord Justice Gross told SFO prosecutor James Hines QC: "It's not a matter to be downplayed when the Crown in a major prosecution calls a witness who is wholly out of his depth.
"We take a very serious view of what in the judgment we will describe as a debacle, whatever the outcome.
"We want to know how did it come about that he was instructed when he lacked expertise? We are very concerned as to how he can have been instructed, the due diligence, and how it came to light.’’
Mr Rowe was a key witness in the Libor trials of Barclays traders and of Tom Hayes, the first trader to be jailed for conspiracy to defraud through Libor rigging. During a retrial of two traders accused of Libor rigging, it was disclosed that Mr Rowe had texted friends asking for help during the trial; even offering to pay for assistance with questions about trading.
Aziz Rahman, founder of Rahman Ravelli, wrote about the SFO’s use of Mr Rowe three months ago. He says it shows that the SFO is not infallible when it comes to building a case.
Mr Rahman added: “A prosecution case can look, at first glance, to be very convincing. And the SFO certainly has impressive powers when it comes to building a case.
“But it can, and does, get things wrong. Whether it be the obtaining of a search warrant, the conducting of a raid, the way it handles potential evidence or its use of witnesses, there is always the potential to challenge either the assumptions the SFO makes or the way it goes about its work.
“Such challenges can be the lifeblood of a successful defence against SFO accusations.’’
Read our article: CHALLENGING WITNESS CREDIBILITY