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Former JPMorgan 'Whale' supervisor opposes U.S. extradition

The lobby of JP Morgan headquarters is photographed through it's front doors in New York May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The lobby of JP Morgan headquarters is photographed through it's front doors in New York May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Sarah White

MADRID (Reuters) - A former JPMorgan Chase executive accused of helping to hide trading losses in a $6.2 billion financial scandal at the bank rejected on Friday a U.S. extradition request, which will now rest in the hands of courts in his native Spain.

Javier Martin-Artajo, who oversaw another ex-JPMorgan trader nicknamed the "London Whale" for his large bets on derivatives markets, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in September over his role in the losses while he worked for the bank in London.

After handing himself in to Spanish police at the end of August, Martin-Artajo on Friday told Spain's High Court he was opposed to extradition, a court source said, though judges can still decide to send him to face charges.

"He said that in any case the alleged events took place in the United Kingdom, and not in the United States," the court source said.

Martin-Artajo, wearing an open-necked shirt and dark suit and who appeared relaxed after the hearing, waving to media, also asked the judge to request more information from the United States, the court source said.

His legal team, law firm Cortes Abogados in Madrid and Lista Cannon from Norton Rose Fulbright in London, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The scandal knocked the reputation of America's biggest bank and has so far cost JPMorgan $920 million in penalties from U.S. and British regulators. It still faces criminal investigations, and last year's losses also hurt the standing of JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, who once dismissed the debacle as a "tempest in a teapot".

Martin-Artajo is the most senior figure charged over JPMorgan's trading losses.

Along with a junior colleague, Frenchman Julien Grout, he has been accused of hiding hundreds of millions of dollars of losses within JPMorgan's chief investment office, by marking positions in a credit derivatives portfolio at inflated prices.

Bruno Iksil, the "Whale" he supervised and who executed the trades at the heart of the losses, has not been charged with any wrongdoing and is cooperating with prosecutors.

A home and relatives in Spain helped Martin-Artajo avoid jail time after his arrest, as it prompted the judge to decide he was not a flight risk and grant him a conditional release.

Martin-Artajo, whose great-uncle was former Spanish leader Francisco Franco's foreign minister after the Second World War, handed himself in after police approached his family.

He also has a home in London and a cottage in an exclusive countryside enclave.

While Spain, according to its extradition treaty with the United States, is not obliged to hand over its citizens, extradition lawyers believe there is a chance Martin-Artajo could be sent there, as the alleged offences are also punishable in Spain.

A judge in Spain's High Court must now decide whether to request the extra information from the United States or not. After this, the case could be elevated to another panel of judges who will examine the extradition request.

(Additional reporting by Clare Hutchison in London; Editing by Julien Toyer and Mark Potter)

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