Alex Hope, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed currency trading "expert" who received a wave of publicity after reportedly buying a £125,000 bottle of champagne, is believed to have been arrested by City regulators investigating suspected unauthorised trading activities.
The precocious self-taught trader has sought considerable publicity, setting up his own website – alexhopefx.com – and making a number of media appearances. However, the former Wembley catering manager could not be reached on Wednesday morning. A report in City AM said Hope's publicist had confirmed the trader had been arrested, adding that he denied all allegations.
The FSA refused to confirm the identity of the individual at the centre of the investigation. The City regulator said a 23-year-old had been arrested on suspicion of committing offences under the FSA Markets Act 2000 and the Fraud Act 2006. No one was charged with an offence.
Meanwhile, contacted by the Guardian, Hope's publicist refused to confirm or deny the arrest and said she had not seen newspaper reports. She said she was unable to speak further.
Hope generated a blizzard of publicity last month after reputedly spending more than £200,000 on Britain's most expensive round of drinks at a Liverpool nightclub. He is said to have spent £125,000 on a 99lb double-Nebuchadnezzar-sized bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne as well as further bottles of champagne and vodka.
A report in the Daily Mail suggested there had been "some scepticism about the receipt, which was released hours after the party". In the same week Hope financed the inaugural Fast Growth Entrepreneurs Club networking event at the Westbury Gallery in Mayfair. The London Stock Exchange authorised the use of its name as a sponsor of the event, attended by about 60 entrepreneurs and investors, but is understood not to have provided funding.
In a video interview at the event, featured on Hope's blog, he said: "How I got started in foreign exchange markets was I read a book called Profiting With Forex and also another book How to Get Started in Currency Trading – this was the age of 19 on my journey to work for my old job."
Hope has separately created his own YouTube "showreel", in which he says: "You don't see a lot of people my age in the City doing what I do. And I feel I have got a lot of good opinions of the markets which you don't hear from people my age."
Hope featured prominently in a sponsored supplement about spread-betting in the Telegraph newspaper last May. "Who would have thought I would become a trader in the City? Certainly not me," he told the paper. "In a year or two I'd like to set up my own mini hedge fund."
Prior to discovering his interest in currency trading, according Hope, he earned £21,000 a year working in catering management at Wembley stadium. He claims to have briefly worked "as an FX and commodity trader" for the Forex Academy, a Slough-based website providing courses in currency trading.
On Tuesday, the FSA and officers from City of London Police searched an address in east London "in connection with an investigation into a suspected unauthorised foreign exchange trading scheme".
Hope last year set up a company called Short Sterling Limited, where he and the company's registrars, Caterham-based AML Benson, are the only directors. No accounts have been filed. He gives his address as a block of flats close to the ExCel Centre by Victoria Dock in east London. According to Land Registry filings, he is not the owner of the lease on that flat.
There is only one Alexander Hope on the FSA's "authorised persons" register. He is a 48-year-old independent financial adviser in Gloucester, with no connection to the Hope believed to be at the centre of the FSA's inquiries.
It is not illegal to deal on the foreign exchange markets without FSA authorisation. However, there are circumstances where traders investing other people's funds are required to be registered with and overseen by the regulator.