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Britain Wins First Guilty Plea in Rate-Rigging Probe

FILE - London's financial district is seen behind the Thames Barrier late afternoon December 1, 2013

A senior official at a leading British bank pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud in connection with the manipulation of Libor benchmark interest rates, becoming the first person in Britain to plead guilty to such an offense.

The banker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty on Friday in a criminal case stemming from an investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office. An English High Court judge on Tuesday lifted some court reporting restrictions.

Authorities around the world have been probing the rigging of the London interbank offered rate or Libor, a key benchmark against which around $450 trillion of financial contracts are pegged.

In the United States, the Department of Justice obtained guilty pleas from two former rates traders of Dutch lender Rabobank. Paul Robson, a British citizen, and his former colleague Takayuki Yagami, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to rig Libor.

Seven banks and brokerages have so far settled U.S. and UK regulatory allegations of interest rate rigging as a result of a global investigation and 17 men have been charged with fraud-related offenses.

The first jury trial arising from the global probe will take place in Britain in January, when a former UBS and Citigroup trader faces eight charges of conspiring to rig the yen Libor rate to boost his trading book.