By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) - Tom Hayes, the first trader convicted by jury of rigging Libor global interest rates, said on Friday he looked forward to eating a doner kebab after being released from a "traumatic" five-and-a-half years behind bars in Britain.
The former star UBS and Citigroup derivatives trader, who has served half his 11-year sentence in custody, was painted by prosecutors as a ringleader in a global conspiracy to manipulate Libor (London interbank offered rate), a reference for rates on around $450 trillion worth of loans worldwide.
Hayes, a gifted mathematician with Asperger's syndrome who was charged by both U.S. and British prosecutors, said he had been jailed for doing his job the way he had been asked to -- and believed he would yet be exonerated.
"Today, I begin the process of rebuilding my life and my shattered relationship with my son, Joshua," he told reporters after his nine-year-old son flew into his arms and he hugged his wife.
Early on Friday morning, Hayes was transported from HMP Ford, an open prison in Arundel on England's south coast where he has spent the last 18 months, to be released at a nearby industrial estate, where he had worked at a drilling rig manufacturer on a work-release programme.
He said he felt overwhelmed.
"After a traumatic five-and-a-half years in custody and two- and-a-half years of bail, my eight year ordeal in the UK is almost over ... ," he said. "And I'm going to enjoy my first doner kebab in a long time."
Hayes continues to try and clear his name with a drawn-out appeal through the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body that reviews potential miscarriages of justice and can send cases back to the Court of Appeal.
His lawyer, Karen Todner, said he had served a "monstrous" sentence after being made a "scapegoat with a disability" for those more senior. She called for more funding for the CCRC and urged the body to respond to applications more quickly to ensure the wrongfully imprisoned receive justice.
"Amongst many grounds of appeal, Tom's autism was only diagnosed shortly before his trial, the jury were not made aware of it and no medical evidence was allowed to be called in his defence," she said.
Hayes is the last of a trio of high-profile traders convicted in Britain of benchmark rigging to be released.
He earned millions of pounds as a much-coveted trader -- but his paycheck was eclipsed by that of French trader Christian Bittar, who once worked for Deutsche Bank and earned more than 60 million pounds ($82 million) between 2005 and 2009. Both earned hundreds of millions of pounds for their employers.
Bittar, once considered one of the world's most skilled traders, was prosecuted for conspiring to manipulate Euribor, the euro equivalent of Libor. He pleaded guilty and was jailed for five years and four months in July 2018.
But he was released last February under an early removal scheme that allows some foreign citizens to be deported to their homeland nine months before the end of the custodial half of their sentence.
Bittar's former co-defendant and friend, ex Barclays trader Philippe Moryoussef, gained notoriety by fleeing to his native France before his London trial. Last November, he won a court battle against extradition to Britain, where he faced an eight-year sentence.
Hayes' release coincides with the demise of Libor. After a global investigation into benchmark rigging, that led to leading banks and brokerages paying about $9 billion in regulatory settlements, it will be scrapped at the end of 2021.
($1 = 0.7285 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Will Russell and Toby Melville in Arundel; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)