Rogue trading suspect John Rusnak was being hunted Wednesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over an alleged $750 million fraud, but it was not clear whether he had escaped with any of the cash.

Allied Irish Bank said an investigation at its U.S. unit Allfirst, based in Baltimore, had revealed the scale of the hit it had taken and was switching to how the losses had happened and where the money had gone. 

``One of the reasons we want to interview this individual is to see if he did profit and to what extent,'' Allied Irish chief executive Michael Buckley told a press conference at the bank's headquarters in Dublin's Ballsbridge district. 

``We don't know whether he got away with anything,'' Buckley said. ``It's conceivable he got away with something, it's possible he had accomplices who got away with something. We have concentrated by and large on the how much, but as it goes on we will look at the why and the how.'' 

In the United States, spokeswoman Virginia Evans at the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, said: ``We do have an investigation under way in this office, but that's about all I can say.'' 

Buckley said another possibility was that the money had disappeared into other banks as losses incurred on Rusnak's trades. 

After the news conference, an Allied Irish spokeswoman confirmed the missing foreign exchange trader was Rusnak, an American in his 40s. 

``He is from the mid-Atlantic area, he has worked for Allfirst for seven years and he has a wife and family,'' said Buckley. 

 

UNAUTHORISED TRADES 

``He has been a respected member of his local community and he has never given any reason for anyone to believe, in his performance and his job up until now, that he was an unusual individual in any way,'' Buckley added. 

According to media reports Rusnak has two children, was on the local school board and was a regular churchgoer. 

Rusnak is suspected of entering a variety of unauthorised spot and forward foreign exchange trades, apparently offsetting foreign currency option positions he had also entered. 

In normal business, profits and losses from foreign exchange deals would be offset against profits and losses from options transactions, an activity carried out by experienced traders within approved risk limits. 

The bank believes Rusnak carried out foreign exchange deals in the normal way, but the offsetting currency option contracts he was entering were fictitious. 

``The management of treasury in Allfirst were alerted to this by their internal control system several weeks ago,'' said Buckley. 

``This individual engaged in a very large number of trades and the investigation that began was to determine how many of those trades were real... and that meant each trade had to be investigated in terms of the counterparty, was it real or not.'' 

Rusnak had been cooperating with the bank's internal probe until he went missing at the weekend, prompting Allied Irish to call in the FBI to search for him. 

Asked what would happen when Rusnak was found, Buckley added: ``First he will be summarily dismissed. Second we will continue, hopefully to a very rapid conclusion, the investigation of the entire ramifications of this whole episode.''