Former JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) trader Javier Martin-Artajo was released from police custody after telling a Madrid court he opposed attempts by U.S. prosecutors to extradite him on charges he hid trading losses that cost the bank $6.2 billion.
The former trader turned himself in yesterday morning after being contacted by investigators, a Spanish police official said. He was released after a hearing in Madrid yesterday in which he said he was unwilling to be extradited, according to a spokeswoman for the National Court.
The U.S. this month charged Martin-Artajo, a Spanish citizen, and Julien Grout, a French citizen, with trying to hide the losses stemming from trades by Bruno Iksil, the Frenchman at the center of the case who became known as the London Whale. Grout and Martin-Artajo face up to 20 years in jail if convicted of the most serious counts, including conspiracy and wire fraud.
“The likelihood is fairly significant that he would go back,” said Ivan Mercado, managing partner at Mercado & Rengel, a law firm in Spain that works on U.S. extradition cases. “Spain and the U.S. have an extradition agreement. He can’t just say he doesn’t want to go.”
JPMorgan’s losses prompted investigations on two continents, U.S. congressional hearings and an internal review that led to a 50 percent pay cut for Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, who the board said bore some responsibility for lapses. Regulators in the U.K. and U.S. are preparing to impose fines on the bank as soon as mid-September, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said last week.
The bank is in talks with various authorities to settle its part of the case for about $500 million to $600 million combined, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people close to the situation. Not all agencies have agreed to numbers and the total may end up outside that range, it said.
Martin-Artajo, 49, oversaw trading strategy for Iksil’s synthetic portfolio at JPMorgan’s chief investment office in London, while Grout was a trader who worked for him.
“The arrested person is presumed responsible for manipulating and inflating the value of positions in the synthetic credit portfolio of his firm with the aim of achieving specific objectives of daily losses and gains,” Spanish police said in a statement.
Martin-Artajo’s lawyer, Lista Cannon, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment on his client yesterday. He “is confident that when a complete and fair reconstruction of these complex events is completed, he will be cleared of any wrongdoing,” a spokeswoman for his law firm said earlier this month. Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment.
At a hearing yesterday, Martin-Artajo’s lawyer filed documents in which his client denied the allegations, according to a court official who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The U.S. now has 40 days to file sworn statements in support of its extradition request.
Martin-Artajo will then be able to contest those arguments at a further hearing before a judge decides whether to grant the request, said Mercado, who isn’t involved in the case. The process can take up to several months, he added.
“When there is a bilateral agreement between two countries on certain crimes, it’s very difficult for a country to refuse extradition because the accord implies the crime is viewed comparably,” Carlos Vazquez, a criminal lawyer and partner at Vazquez & Vazquez in Madrid, said by telephone.
The spokeswoman for the court said Martin-Artajo’s passport has been confiscated. Another court official said that wasn’t the case, but that he can’t leave Spain without court approval.
Grout is living in France and isn’t a fugitive, his lawyer, Edward Little, a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in New York, said in an Aug. 12 interview, two days before his client was charged.
“He visited the U.S. last month with confidence he was not being indicted and moved to France to save money and look for a job,” Little said at the time. France has no obligation under its extradition treaty with the U.S. to send Grout to New York. Little declined to comment yesterday.
Martin-Artajo and Grout are charged with conspiring to falsify securities filings from March to May of 2012. The U.S. sought to keep the charges secret while arrests were attempted before unsealing them on Aug. 14. Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, declined to comment.
Dimon characterized the loss as “the stupidest and most embarrassing situation I have ever been a part of.” First disclosed in May 2012, the bad bets led to an earnings restatement, a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing and probes by authorities including the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.
Iksil, dubbed the “London Whale” because his portfolio was so large, signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. in June, the government said. He pledged to cooperate with investigators as part of the deal. Martin-Artajo’s lawyer submitted documents with details of Iksil’s agreement with the U.S., the court official said yesterday.
The cases are U.S. v. Grout, 13-MAG-01976, and U.S. v. Martin-Artajo, 13-MAG-01975, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Martin-Artajo, 13-cv-05677, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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