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A mistrial was declared Tuesday in the Miami criminal fraud trial of former banker Eduardo Masferrer, who was accused of arranging illegal loan swaps to prop up his failing Hamilton Bank and collect inflated bonuses. The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of the 18 counts against Masferrer, who was indicted on conspiracy, bank fraud and obstruction charges in June 2004. “This is a case about one man’s disagreement with his government,” defense attorney Howard Srebnick said. “We maintained that reasonable people could disagree, and the jury’s deadlock proves our point.” U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore declared the mistrial after the jury deliberated for five days. Two jurors were kicked off Friday after it was learned they had read news accounts of closing arguments in the four-week trial. Two alternate jurors were called in Monday to replace the dismissed jurors, but the panel went home early after paramedics were called to treat a juror complaining of shortness of breath. It was unclear how the jury split on different counts. But Masferrer’s son Eduardo Jr. said four jurors who approached him afterward told him “a majority of the jurors were voting to acquit of all counts.” Eduardo Masferrer Jr. is a Boston attorney with Masferrer & Hurowitz who assisted brothers Howard and Scott Srebnick in his father’s defense. Moore set a retrial date of April 17 if prosecutors decide to retry Masferrer. That decision was made quickly. “The United States Attorney’s Office will retry the case on that date,” office spokeswoman Alicia Valle said. “We don’t comment on what may or may not have happened.” Miami defense attorney David Oscar Markus, who followed the case but wasn’t involved, called the jury split a clear win for Masferrer. He said juries in white-collar cases often split counts between convictions and acquittals. “This was a huge victory for the defense,” said Markus, vice president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “A lot of times jurors like to compromise that, if we can’t reach a verdict, let’s split the baby.” Markus said mistrials often can lead to plea deals, but Howard Srebnick declined to comment on that possibility. The indictment named Masferrer along with Hamilton’s former president Juan Carlos Bernace and chief financial officer John Jacobs. Bernace and Jacobs reached plea agreements requiring their testimony against Masferrer. Their sentencings are scheduled for after the trial. “There were plea offers made to them, and Mr. Masferrer went to trial,” Howard Srebnick said. Frederic Z. Haller also was indicted on a single conspiracy count. The British citizen has refused to come to the United States to face trial. Masferrer founded and served as chairman and chief executive of the Doral, Fla.-based trade finance bank, which failed in 2002. Regulators sold off its branches and $1.2 billion in assets. Prosecutors alleged Masferrer was “a micromanager” in the arcane world of private international finance who plotted to illegally swap Hamilton’s four risky Russian loans for 19 risky loans that other banks had in Latin America through a third party. In the alleged illegal swaps, Hamilton and other banks paid face value for the loans rather than more realistic discounted values that reflected adverse market conditions. Financial crises in Russia and Latin America were hurting their economies at the time, and the likelihood of the borrowers meeting their debt service was in question. The prosecutors were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Outerbridge, Benjamin Greenberg and Andrew Levi. Levi argued in closings that Masferrer engineered a fraud to get a $1.1 million bonus and protect his family’s $30 million holdings in the bank, which opened in 1997. The swaps were in 1998 and 1999. The prosecution offered witnesses and tape recordings indicating the banks were trying to avoid recording losses, produce strong earnings and artificially inflate stock values. The defense called just two witnesses to make its case.

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