"The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose".
The above was published
long before banksters and so-called traders sat in front of computer screens and played roulette with the wealth of nations, and over the past few years its moral has become painfully clear to all of us. Country after country has been plundered by the banks, and we have been left to pay the price.
There do appear to be limits however, because today, former City trader Kweku Adoboli has gone on trial
at Southwark Crown Court for fraud and false accounting. His defence appears to be - wait for it - "I was only doing my job". This has been called the Nuremberg defence, and it is no defence at all, even though he was most likely doing exactly that.
Adoboli worked for UBS
; last September, after the company uncovered so-called irregularities, he was charged with fraud and false accounting, being remanded in custody. CEO Oswald Gruebel said he would not resign over the scandal. Adoboli appeared in court again on September 22. Two days later, Gruebel resigned
. Adoboli was subsequently granted bail
, and he turned up at court today looking more like a lawyer than a fraudster.
According to Sasha Wass QC prosecuting, he thought he had the "magic touch" and carried out his alleged frauds in a thoroughly dishonest fashion. He "did all of this by exceeding his trading limits, by inventing fictitious deals to conceal this, and then he lied to his bosses".
So what does UBS do? The company describes itself as a wealth management outfit offering financial services to private, corporate and institutional clients in over 50 countries. Its Jersey office for example offers trust and fund administration services as well as banking and investment services to private clients and financial intermediaries. In other words, it gambles with other people's money, the same way MF Global did
before it bet on red, and the little white ball landed on black. To date, no one has been charged with any criminal offence in relation to that fiasco, and it is unlikely anyone will be.
Adoboli's trial is scheduled to last up to 8 weeks. If he is convicted, the question we should all ask is not how many years should he get, but how many others - hundreds or even thousands - should have been in the dock with him?