Bri­tain’s SFO charges Bar­clays

Bank, 4 for­mer top ex­ec­u­tives stand ac­cused

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Kirstin Ri­d­ley and Lawrence White

BAR­CLAYS and four for­mer top ex­ec­u­tives have been crim­i­nally charged over undis­closed pay­ments to Qatari in­vestors dur­ing a £12 bil­lion (197bn) emer­gency fund rais­ing in 2008.

Bri­tain’s Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice (SFO) said yes­ter­day it was charg­ing Bar­clays with con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud and un­law­ful fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, mak­ing it the first bank to face crim­i­nal charges over ac­tions taken dur­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Bar­clays said it was con­sid­er­ing its po­si­tion and await­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the charges, which fol­low a five-year SFO inquiry into how it avoided the fate of Lloyds and RBS by staving off a state bailout.

The SFO also charged for­mer top Bar­clays ex­ec­u­tives John Var­ley, Roger Jenk­ins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing a two-part fundrais­ing that in­cluded a $3bn (R38.6bn) Bar­clays loan to the wealthy Gulf state.

A lawyer for Jenk­ins said he would “vig­or­ously de­fend” him­self against the charges, ad­ding his client had re­ceived both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal le­gal ad­vice at the time.

A spokesper­son for Boath de­clined to com­ment. A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Var­ley de­clined to com­ment and a lawyer for Kalaris could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

The men are the most se­nior bankers to be charged in Bri­tain for al­leged crimes dur­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and face jail sen­tences of up to 10 years if found guilty.

Bar­clays, the first bank to be pros­e­cuted since David Green took over as head of the SFO in 2012, could be fined. There was no al­le­ga­tion of wrong­do­ing against Qatar, which is a ma­jor investor in Bri­tain.

Var­ley, the bank’s for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive; Jenk­ins, a for­mer tax ad­vi­sory boss; Kalaris, the ex chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bar­clays’ wealth di­vi­sion and Boath, for­mer Euro­pean head of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, have been charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion dur­ing a June 2008 cap­i­tal rais­ing.

The charges

Var­ley and Jenk­ins have also been charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion in re­la­tion to the sec­ond cap­i­tal rais­ing in Oc­to­ber 2008 and Var­ley and Jenk­ins face another charge of un­law­ful fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, the SFO said.

The SFO’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion cen­tred on com­mer­cial agree­ments be­tween Bar­clays and Qatari in­vestors dur­ing two emer­gency fund rais­ings in June and Oc­to­ber at the height of the credit cri­sis.

Qatar Hold­ing, part of the Qatar In­vest­ment Author­ity sov­er­eign wealth fund, and Chal­lenger, an in­vest­ment ve­hi­cle of for­mer Qatari prime min­is­ter Sheikh Ha­mad bin Jas­sim bin Jabr al-Thani, in­vested around £5.3bn in Bar­clays.

Au­thor­i­ties have ex­am­ined whether pay­ments from Bar­clays to Qatar at the same time, such as around £322m in “ad­vi­sory ser­vices agree­ments”, along­side a multi-bil­lion dol­lar loan, were hon­est and prop­erly dis­closed.

Qatar, mean­while, has made a healthy profit from its in­vest­ment and re­mains Bar­clays’ big­gest share­holder. The Gulf state has not been ac­cused of wrong­do­ing. – Reuters

PHOTO: EPA

The head­quar­ters of Bar­clays bank in Ca­nary Wharf in London. The bank has been charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud.

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