Konstantin Vishnyak did one thing before he handed the second of his two iPhones to the police officer arresting him: he deleted Whatsapp. Two years later, a London jury acquitted him of destroying documents that he knew would be crucial to an investigation into his trading activity.
Monday’s verdict is a blow to the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, which rarely brings cases to trial and pursued this case after dropping an insider-trading investigation against Vishnyak and two other men. And it raises questions over what financial prosecutors can do when they suspect someone is trying to hinder an investigation. “It’s a difficult offense to prosecute, and more difficult these days because of the way people communicate with each other,” said Tim Thomas, who formerly worked at the FCA on enforcement cases. “If individuals are smart enough to use Whatsapp or Signal and then delete communications, it becomes very difficult to prosecute.”