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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 16:54 GMT
City Slickers guilty of tip scam
City Slickers page
The tipsters are said to have made thousands of pounds in profit
Two former Daily Mirror "City Slickers" financial journalists have been convicted of a share tipping scam.

James Hipwell, 39, was found guilty of conspiracy to breach the Financial Services Act.

Southwark Crown Court heard Hipwell made 41,000 in six months by buying, tipping and then selling shares.

A private investor, Terry Shepherd, was convicted of a similar offence, while Hipwell's colleague, Anil Bhoyrul, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Hipwell, from London, and Shepherd, from Surrey, denied the charges.

The men will be sentenced at a later date and could be jailed for up to seven years and face confiscation orders. They will remain on bail.

Commenting on the case, competition minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "Today's verdict should send out a clear message that the government will take action against those who break the law for their own financial gain.

"The DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] is committed to establishing and maintaining fair markets."

Defending himself against the allegations that he had created a false impression of the value of shares, Hipwell earlier told the court he stood by his tips.

Driving analogy

And he insisted former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan encouraged his City Slickers columnists to buy the shares they were tipping.

"[Morgan] said if we were in the business of tipping shares he was happy for us to trade and even used the analogy along the lines of, you would not learn to drive from somebody who had never been in a car. You would not learn from a manual."

The court heard Mr Morgan had himself bought shares - said in court to be as much as 67,000 - in Sir Alan Sugar's technology firm Viglen, a day before they were tipped in the City Slickers column.

It was this tip, at the beginning of 2000 in a column entitled "Sugar to Head Next Gold Rush", that led to Hipwell and Bhoyrul being investigated.

Their former editor was cleared by a DTI inquiry of any wrongdoing and backed by executives at Trinity Mirror.

But Mr Morgan was criticised by the Press Complaints Commission and the court heard Viglen's PR adviser, Nick Hewer, say he had been asked by the editor to lie about the timing of a conversation with a columnist.

Fired

Prosecutors said Hipwell and co-columnist Bhoyrul, of Sutton, Surrey, would first spend thousands of pounds on stock they planned to "ramp" - by highlighting it as "tip of the day" 24 hours later.

Then they would sell the holding at a profit as the price rose.

The "share-ramping" involved 44 separate incidents between 1 August 1999 and 29 February 2000, the court heard.

Shepherd was recruited by Hipwell and Bhoyrul - who now edits a magazine in Dubai - to take part in the scam, after contacting them through a message board.

The prosecution said Shepherd gained a profit of 17,000, and Bhoyrul 15,000 through the practice.

Hipwell and Bhoyrul were fired by the Mirror in 2000.




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