Friday 28 February 2020 12:06 pm

Ex-Barclays bankers cleared of £4bn Qatar financial crisis fraud after SFO probe

A jury today cleared three former Barclays executives of committing financial crisis-era fraud to save the bank from a bailout.

Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath were all acquitted of charges of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in connection with the 2008 Qatar fundraisings.

Read more: Jury retires to consider verdict in landmark fraud trial of ex-Barclays bankers

They had all denied the charges, which the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) brought against the bankers in October.

The SFO had alleged that the three used phoney advisory services agreements to hide undeclared payments made to Qatar to induce two investments in the bank.

The Qataris made an investment of £1.9bn into Barclays in June 2008 and a second of £2.05bn in November 2008 as the bank sought to avoid a government bailout.

The prosecution alleged that the trio cooked up the two advisory services agreements (ASAs), which were worth £322m, to funnel the extra fees to Qatar.

Jenkins denied that the ASAs with Qatar were shams, describing them as a “tremendous boost” to the bank.

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The decision is a severe blow for the SFO, which has been investigating the financiers for over seven years.

A spokesperson for the SFO said: “Our prosecution decisions are always based on the evidence that is available, and we are determined to bring perpetrators of serious financial crime to justice.

“Wherever our evidential and public interests tests are met, we will always endeavour to bring this before a court.”

Read more: Activist Edward Bramson renews attack on Barclays amid Jeffrey Epstein probe

The decision marks the likely end of legal attempts to hold top bankers to account for the decisions they made during the global financial crisis.

The SFO’s challenge has been hampered throughout its lifespan. Last June former Barclays chief John Varley was acquitted, whilst the case against Barclays itself was thrown out in 2018.

SFO strategy called into question

Michael O’Kane, senior partner at Peters & Peters, who represented Boath, said:

“What was the SFO doing spending millions prosecuting Mr Boath, when he had been cleared of exactly the same conduct by the FCA? The new Attorney General should conduct a thorough review as to why the SFO repeatedly demonstrates such poor judgement.

“While victims go without redress in a rising tide of fraud due to a lack of investigative resources, the SFO has just wasted many millions on an utterly vacuous prosecution.

“After a series of high profile failures, the reputation of the SFO rested on this verdict. The government should now conduct an urgent independent review of the operations and decision-making at the SFO, with all options on the table.”

Ross Dixon, partner at Hickman & Rose solicitors, said: “The SFO’s failure to secure any convictions in this important and high profile case raises serious questions about the agency’s treatment of individuals in these matters.

Read more: Is the SFO giving executives an easy ride in bribery cases?

“While it would be wrong for the SFO to only prosecute matters where it is certain of success; time after time allegations against individuals have been dismissed by the Court or been rejected by a jury.

“Once again this brings into question the decision making of the SFO when it comes to individuals.”

More to follow.