Konstantin Vishnyak, who is a former VTB Capital Plc banker was acquitted by a London jury after deleting WhatsApp messages under the noses of the police. This also dealt a blow to the Financial Conduct Authority’s pursuit of insider dealing.
He was found not guilty after careful discussions by jurors for slightly more than 3 hours and was released by the judge. Prosecutors at the FCA had alleged that the 42-year-old banker removed the WhatsApp application knowing that it might be relevant to an insider-trading investigation.
But Vishnyak insists on deleting the messages because he was fearful of getting into a political scandal. If his links with a Russian suspect in a British murder investigation was established, he will be caught up in the scandal.
The verdict leaves the FCA with no clues. The FCA dropped the insider-trading investigation against Vishnyak and two other suspects. But it had pursued the lesser charge of deleting the texts.
The agency said that it was not happy with the outcome, but respects the verdict.
The Case Against The Banker
Vishnyak faced arrest in September 2018 at his home. He was arrested by authorities on suspicion about his trading in six companies that got takeover bids. He managed to remove the Whatsapp application in his phone in his bedroom before handing the second of his two iPhones to a police officer.
Rachel Barnes, the attorney for the agency, questioned Vishnyak that he deleted WhatsApp under the nose of the police and threw FCA off the scent. Was not this a great risk?
The Banker’s Statement About Deleting WhatsApp application
Vishnyak’s attorney told the jury that the content of the messages was very embarrassing. The chats had correspondence with Andrei Lugovoi, who is a politician who is on the wanted list of British cops for the poisoning of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko. Alexander received a fatal dose of radioactive polonium in his tea in a London restaurant in 2006.
Vishnyak says that he worries that he and his family will be put on a watchlist. He feared that he would become a bargaining chip in the context of deteriorating relations between Russia and the UK.
Henry Milner, a lawyer for Vishnyak said that the British juries do not transact their business on suspicion. His client’s case was that his deletions were private matters and have nothing to do with shares or insider trading. The prosecution was unable to prove otherwise.
According to the FCA, Vishynak was a suspect in trading tips that he received from a ring of Moscow friends. This also included the best man at his wedding. Vishynak by this time had left VTB. He made about 3.78 million pounds trading the six stocks in question.
In an interview with the FCA, he said that one tip came from the Moscow group during a skiing holiday in Italy. Vishnyak bought one of the stock after one of the people started talking about the information he had received. He added that the next day there was a takeover announcement.