By Jonathan Davies

The rigging of foreign currency exchange markets will become a criminal offence, the Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed.

Anyone found guilty of fixing foreign currency and other benchmark rates could face up to seven years in prison.

The announcement comes after a year in which financial markets have been shocked by huge scandals over rigging of the Libor interest rate and other foreign exchange rates.

The Chancellor said offenders would face the "full force of the law".

"The integrity of the City matters to the economy of Britain," he said.

"That's why the government is determined to deal with abuses, tackle the unacceptable behaviour of the few and ensure that markets are fair for the many who depend on them."

From 1 April 2015, City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will be responsible for regulating eight financial benchmarks, including foreign currency, gold, silver, bronze, Brent crude oil and the Libor, which it already regulated.

Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the FCA, said: "I am determined to ensure that markets work well and preserve the UK's reputation as a centre of excellence for financial services - today's announcement is a vital step in achieving this."

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