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“This case is about a criminal conspiracy inside one of Wall Street’s largest banks,” said Lucy Jennings, a prosecutor with the Justice Department’s fraud section. “To make more money for themselves, they decided to cheat.” The trial of three former JPMorgan employees, including the veteran head of precious metals, Michael Nowak, is the most ambitious effort yet in a years-long US crackdown on market manipulation and spoofing.

NEW YORK: The precious-metals business at JPMorgan Chase & Co operated for years as a corrupt group of traders and sales staff who manipulated gold and silver markets for the benefit of the bank and its prized clients, a federal prosecutor has told jurors in Chicago.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy inside one of Wall Street’s largest banks,” said Lucy Jennings, a prosecutor with the Justice Department’s fraud section. “To make more money for themselves, they decided to cheat.”

The trial of three former JPMorgan employees, including the veteran head of precious metals, Michael Nowak, is the most ambitious effort yet in a years-long US crackdown on market manipulation and spoofing.

Unlike past cases of alleged trading fraud, the trio is accused of a racketeering conspiracy under the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act – a criminal law more commonly used against the Mafia rather than global banks.

Nowak, gold trader Gregg Smith and Jeffrey Ruffo, an executive director who specialised in hedge fund sales, are charged with racketeering conspiracy as well as conspiring to commit price manipulation, wire fraud, commodities fraud and spoofing from 2008 to 2016.

All together, Nowak and Smith have been accused of more than two dozen crimes. The three defendants face decades in prison if convicted on all counts.

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Another trader, Christopher Jordan, who was charged alongside them, is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Spoofing, banned by law in 2010, involves huge orders that traders cancel before they can be executed in a bid to push prices in the direction they want to make their genuine trades profitable.

While cancelling orders isn’t illegal, it is unlawful as part of a strategy intended to dupe others.

“When this trick works, there is somebody else on the other side of the deal that lost,” Jennings told jurors in her opening statement.

“Somebody got ripped off.” She added, “We will prove that all three defendants knew from day one that this trading was wrong and did it anyways.”

Lawyers for Nowak and Smith offered jurors a much different view, saying prosecutors had misrepresented how and why orders are made in the precious-metals market, and insisted that the defendants had never intended to deceive anyone.

They said the government had cherry-picked trading data to create the false impression that the traders were spoofing when they were actually placing real, executable, open-market orders.

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