NRI pleads guilty of market manipulation
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NRI pleads guilty of market manipulation

Anil Bhoyrul, 38, and James Hipwell, 39, were accused of tipping companies to further boost stock prices.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2005 22:30 IST

A journalist of Indian origin has pleaded guilty to using his column in the Daily Mirror to earn profits from the stock market by highlighting firms whose shares he had bought and then selling them when the prices shot up.

Anil Bhoyrul, 38, the journalist, and his colleague James Hipwell, 39, wrote the column "City Slickers" in the popular tabloid. Bhoyrul has pleaded guilty of market manipulation while Hipwell has been convicted of the same charge.

The third convicted man who worked with the two journalists was Terry Shepherd, 36, a trader. They were convicted on Wednesday evening at Southwark Crown Court after a six-year probe by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The affair, dubbed Slickergate, emerged after The Daily Telegraph disclosed in February 2000 that the Daily Mirror's then editor Piers Morgan had bought shares in a company the day before it was tipped in the column.

The two journalists were accused of tipping companies, in some cases less than 24 hours after buying shares and touting inaccurate speculation, to further boost stock prices.

One column falsely reported that Oxford GlycoSciences Plc, a British biotechnology company, had discovered a vaccine for AIDS, prosecutors claimed.

Hipwell and Shepherd had earlier pleaded not guilty but after a seven-week trial, a jury took less than two days to find them guilty. All were released on bail.

However, judge Beatson warned that this does "not mean I am not considering a sentence of imprisonment". The offence carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

During the trial, prosecutors detailed a pattern of "first buy, then tip, then sell".

Bhoyrul's lawyers said: "Looking back at the general atmosphere of the Daily Mirror at the time...Bhoyrul was deprived of the moral leadership which would have prevented these events."

Bhoyrul, whose guilty plea was subject to reporting restrictions during the trial, admitted failing to disclose his interest in shares but denied doing so dishonestly. The column had a cult following of readers keen to make profits on the stock market.

He described it as "a monster that was out of control - every time I tipped a share, the price shot up between 30 per cent and 100 per cent the next morning".

Website bulletin boards buzzed with gossip about the Slickers and Bhoyrul claimed that amateur traders appeared outside his house asking for advance tips, sometimes using threats.

Over six months, Bhoyrul reportedly earned £14,000 from share dealings, while Hipwell made £41,000. During the trial Hipwell claimed that he had been "encouraged" to deal in shares by the editor.

The tabloid dismissed the two journalists after an internal inquiry.

Ian Reeves, Morgan's spokesman, said the former editor had no comment. Morgan resigned from the Daily Mirror in May 2004 after it published photographs, later found to be forgeries, which seemed to depict British troops torturing an Iraqi captive.

Competition Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said in a statement: "(The) verdict should send out a clear message that the government will take action against those who break the law for their own financial gain."

First Published: Dec 08, 2005 18:19 IST