Three former Barclays bankers accused of funnelling secret fees to Qatar in exchange for emergency funding at the height of the 2008 financial crisis have been found not guilty of fraud.
Barclays’ ex-investment banking chief, Roger Jenkins, the former head of its wealth division, Thomas Kalaris, and the lender’s ex-European financial institutions head, Richard Boath, were accused of devising fraudulent advisory services agreements in order to disguise payments worth £322m to Qatar.
All three men were acquitted on Friday.
It ends a five-month trial in the only criminal case brought against UK banking executives for their actions during the financial crisis.
The Serious Fraud Office, which brought the charges, had alleged that the money was actually a fee demanded by Qatar in exchange for investing £4bn in the bank as part of an £11bn emergency fundraising in 2008. That funding helped Barclays avoid a public bailout that would have placed it under government control.
According to the prosecution, the fees allowed Qatar to effectively purchase Barclays shares in the fundraising at a heavily discounted price that was not offered to other investors.
The acquittals are a major blow for the SFO, which also failed to win a separate trial against Barclays bank over the Qatar deal, which collapsed in 2018. The organisation later lost a high court appeal to reinstate the charges. Charges against former Tesco executives, accused of being masterminds behind a major accounting scandal, were also thrown out in December 2018 after a judge deemed the SFO’s case too weak to put to a jury.
The SFO announced the charges in 2017 after a five-year investigation into the details of the rescue package. The fraud charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
A previous trial involving all three executives came to a close in April 2019, when the jury was discharged after four months of court proceedings. The former Barclays chief executive John Varley was a co-defendant in that trial but he was acquitted by an appeals court in June.
Barclays’ former finance director Christopher Lucas would have also faced charges in the latest case if he was fit to stand trial. He was not named as a defendant owing to an ongoing illness.
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