Kweku Adoboli, the former UBS trader whose unauthorised trading led to losses of $2.3bn at the Swiss bank, has been jailed for seven years after being convicted of Britain’s biggest banking fraud.

The Ghana-born trader bowed his head in the dock, wiping away tears after a 10-strong jury at Southwark Crown Court convicted him of two counts of fraud by abuse of position but acquitted him on four counts of false accounting.

Prosecutors alleged during the 10-week trial that Adoboli had “fraudulently gambled” away the bank’s money, exceeded his intraday trading limits of $100m and made unhedged trades by “inventing fictitious deals” to distort his risk position which then exposed the bank to huge losses.

Adoboli, who wept repeatedly during his testimony, said his activities began in 2008 and his trades became larger so that by August 8 2011, the bank thought its reported risk was $2.3m but its real risk exposure was $11.85bn.

Adoboli’s scheme began to unravel in the summer of 2011 and by September 14, prosecutors said that Adoboli’s “pyramid of fraud” “collapsed” after phone calls from Will Steward, a back-office UBS accountant, querying the trades.

Adoboli walked out of UBS that lunchtime, went home and sent a “bombshell email” to Mr Steward “confessing” the trades were “not real trades at all” and his explanations had been “just lies”, the court heard.

In his defence, Adoboli argued that everything he did was for the benefit of the bank, which he loved “like family”. He claimed that co-workers on the ETF desk as well as his two line managers and others in the back office knew what he was doing and turned a blind eye as long as he was making profits.

The trial, packed with journalists each day, was filled with human drama as former and current UBS traders filed into the tense courtroom to give evidence against Mr Adoboli.

Ron Greenidge, his former line manager, almost fainted when he started giving evidence and John Hughes, another former co-worker, testified that in the aftermath of Adoboli’s arrest, the stress had been so much he had almost driven his car into a central motorway reservation.

The case also exposed a number of shortcomings of UBS’s supervision of the ETF desk as well as its “more aggressive” attitude to pursuing revenue.

Sentencing Mr Adoboli, Mr Justice Brian Keith told him that: “The tragedy for you is that you had everything going for you. Your fall from grace as a result of these convictions is spectacular.”

The judge added there was “the strong streak of the gambler” in Adoboli as shown by his personal spread betting where he lost £123,000 in the year leading up to his arrest and he had been “arrogant enough to think that the bank’s rules for traders did not apply to you”.

Adoboli testified to the court that no one was willing to stand up to the banking industry and give evidence on his behalf during the trial. This was denied by UBS.

“You’ve seen the size of the machine,” he told the jury as he gestured towards the 11 UBS lawyers and executives who had attended court each day.

Get alerts on Kweku Adoboli when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article