Slickers had no guidance from bosses, says judge

By Jon Slattery

Former City
Slicker Anil Bhoyrul hit out at the “lack of leadership and moral
responsibility” at the Daily Mirror after he was sentenced for his part
in the conspiracy to manipulate the market by buying and selling shares
tipped in his column.

Bhoyrul was sentenced to 180 hours community service. Sentence on
fellow City Slicker James Hipwell was adjourned for medical reports. He
is suffering from kidney disease and was due to be admitted to hospital
this week.

Mr Justice Beatson, sitting at St Albans Crown Court,
said Hipwell was facing a custodial sentence. A third man, Terry
Shepherd, was jailed for three months, half of which was suspended.

Bhoyrul
had admitted conspiring to breach the Financial Services Act between 1
August 1999 and 29 February 2000 and Hipwell and Shepherd were
convicted after a sevenweek trial at Southwark Crown Court last
December on similar charges.

After the sentencing, Bhoyrul said in a statement he had never deliberately intended to mislead the public.

“My
share dealing activity was transparent: I bought and sold shares in my
own name using my own bank account. It’s not for me to make comment
about others who were referred to during the trial.

“However, the
atmosphere and lack of leadership and moral responsibility while I was
employed at the Mirror contributed significantly to these events.”

The
trial heard that Hipwell and Bhoyrul used a “buy, tip and sell”
technique to “cynically manipulate” the market and send stock values
soaring.

They recruited day-trader Shepherd who acted as a
go-between, receiving tips from the two writers. Hipwell and Bhoyrul
were subsequently fired from the Mirror.

Hipwell made £40,763 from the dealings and Shepherd made £18,595.

Bhoyrul was said to have made £14,835, which the judge ordered to be confiscated.

The
trial heard the journalists repeatedly “ramped” shares with the sole
object of making money, and in the clear knowledge that what they were
doing was illegal. “The conclusion is that the column was being used,
at least partly, to manipulate the market so they could profit,” said
Philip Katz, QC, prosecuting.

Bhoyrul’s barrister, Stephen
Solley, QC, painted a picture of intense excitement at the Daily Mirror
during the 1999 dotcom boom and rising stock market.

He said the
City Slickers’ activities were well known at the highest level at the
Daily Mirror and something should have been done to put a stop to it.

“The
editor [Piers Morgan] did not present the bar and participated in what
happened and was excited about what was happening. He was wound up like
a spring by the excitement of those days. He should have said, ‘This
must stop.’

“The editor knew full well how successful the column
was. The editor was taking great pride in it, it was his idea to
introduce it.”

Solley referred to a letter of support from former
Mirror showbiz editor Matthew Wright for Bhoyrul. He said Wright had
described Bhoyrul as an “outstanding columnist” who had close
relationships with senior members of the Mirror staff.

Solley portrayed Bhoyrul as someone who had rebuilt his career after being sacked by the Mirror and suffering from depression.

He
said Bhoyrul had been about to sign on when he got a new job editing a
business magazine in Dubai that had become a success. “What more can a
man do to rehabilitate himself?” he said.

Philip Hackett, QC for
Hipwell, also spoke of the “atmosphere of excitement surrounding
internet shares” at the time of the offence. “He said it was important
to put the Daily Mirror and City Slickers in the context of the times
of the dotcom boom, when many financial magazines and newspapers were
writing about internet shares.

“They weren’t the only paper
reflecting the excitement in the market at that time. There were only
three or four times when the Mirror was alone in tipping shares.”

Hackett
told the court Hipwell had suffered serious health problems in relation
to his kidneys, and produced a consultant’s report saying that his
client was to enter hospital this week for treatment.

He said
Hipwell was facing the “collapse of his life” and the conviction meant
that his career as a financial journalist was finished.

Mr
Justice Beatson, in passing sentence, said he had taken into account
the fact that at the time of the offences there was no formal code of
conduct for the journalists at the Mirror and no guidance from their
superiors.

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