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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 20:32 GMT
'NatWest Three' head for prison
(L-R) Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew
The three admitted guilty to wire fraud
Three British bankers have been sentenced to 37 months in prison each for their role in a multi-million pound fraud linked to US energy firm Enron.

David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby - the so-called NatWest Three - have been sentenced after admitting to wire fraud.

A Texas judge announced the sentence, thereby approving a plea-bargain deal.

Last November, the three, all 45, admitted to defrauding former employer NatWest out of $19m (10m).

Judge Ewing Werlein in the Southern District of Texas announced the sentence on Friday.

Conspiracy

The men admitted to conspiring with ex-Enron employees Andrew Fastow and Michael Kopper, who are already in prison, to defraud NatWest of $19m and then split $7.3m between themselves.

The judge also ordered the three men to repay $7.3m to Natwest's owner, the Royal Bank of Scotland, as part of the sentencing.

Charges brought by prosecutors argued that the three men had advised NatWest to sell part of an Enron-owned firm, Sub Swap, for less than it was worth.

With today's announcement, three more individuals have accepted responsibility for their role in the widespread fraud at Enron
Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general, US Department of Justice

The men then left the bank and bought a share in the company, before selling it on at a higher price for a profit.

Bermingham, of Goring, south Oxfordshire, Glasgow-born Mulgrew who lives in Brighton, East Sussex and Darby, of Lower Wraxall in Wiltshire, were extradited to the US in July 2006 and had previously protested their innocence to seven charges.

But in return for pleading guilty last year to one count of wire fraud, US prosecutors agreed to ask for the six other counts to be dismissed, and supported the trio's bid to serve some of their sentence in the UK.

Following the sentencing Bermingham said: "My conduct in this matter fell well below the standards expected."

Darby said: "I failed to take the right course of action and I deeply regret that."

Mulgrew apologised "unreservedly" and said his actions "lacked integrity".

The three are hoping to serve their sentences in the UK. But they still have to be referred to a US prison initially.

Enron, once a hugely successful energy firm, collapsed in 2001 with debts of $31.8bn (18.3bn), becoming the second largest bankruptcy in the US.

This triggered a wave of court cases against the firm, including from former employees who lost their jobs and saw their pensions collapse.

Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the US Department of Justice said: "With today's announcement, three more individuals have accepted responsibility for their role in the widespread fraud at Enron".

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