NEWS
30/06/2012 06:25 BST

Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary, Calls For Criminal Investigations Into Banking Scandals

Bankers who have committed crimes must be brought to trial, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke insisted on Saturday.

Asked about the two major scandals that have rocked the City this week, Mr Clarke acknowledged that financial crime was "easier to get away with" than virtually any other misdemeanours.

But he said there should be criminal investigations and prosecutions where crimes have been committed.

"We are very bad at prosecuting financial crime in this country," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I suspect financial crime is easier to get away with in this country than practically any other sort of crime.

"This is still being investigated, no doubt, but once these investigations are complete, if they have committed criminal offences they should be brought to trial."

Mr Clarke said some of the behaviour which came to light this week was "shocking".

Mr Clarke, a former chancellor, said there needed to be tougher regulation of the financial sector and that the Government would need to be ready to resist powerful lobbying from the City.

Ed Miliband has called for a full-scale public inquiry into banking culture and practices.

The Labour leader said the industry was plagued by an "institutional corruption" which could only be eradicated by introducing a tough new code of conduct and jail sentences for immoral bankers who abuse the system.

His comments were echoed by Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King who demanded a "real change in culture" as Britain's lenders were left reeling following a week blighted by controversy.

Sir Mervyn said he believed a Leveson-style inquiry was not needed, but condemned conduct in the industry.

He said: "From excessive levels of compensation, to shoddy treatment of customers, to a deceitful manipulation of one of the most important interest rates and now news of yet another mis-selling scandal we can see we need a real change in the culture of the industry."

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) revealed earlier that Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group had agreed to pay compensation to customers who were mis-sold interest-rate hedging products.

Some 28,000 of the products have been sold since 2001 and may have been offered as protection - or to act as a hedge - against a rise in interest rates without the customer fully grasping the downside risks.

The findings come after Barclays was fined £290 million by UK and US regulators for manipulating the rate at which banks lend to each other, and echoes the costly payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal that emerged last year.

Meanwhile, RBS boss Stephen Hester waived his 2012 annual bonus following the IT fiasco that caused major problems for thousands of NatWest customers.

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