February 20, 2019
By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) – Barclays’ former chairman, giving evidence in a landmark London fraud trial, said he first saw a document detailing agreed fees for Qatari investors in the British bank four years after the payment was agreed.
Former Barclays chief executive John Varley and some of his most senior former colleagues – Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath – are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation over side deals struck with Qatar during an 11 billion pound-plus emergency fundraising over a decade ago.
Marcus Agius, the bank’s former chairman, told the trial on Wednesday that he did not know how 280 million pounds ($365 million) of extra fees for Qatar were negotiated or how the figure was arrived at in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.
“Not only did I not see the document, I was not aware of its existence,” the veteran banker, who is giving evidence for the prosecution, told Southwark Crown Court on his second day in the witness box. He said he first saw the document in 2012.
Agius was not cross examined by the defense.
Qatari investors plowed around 4.0 billion pounds into Barclays during two fund raisings at the height of the credit crisis in 2008 that allowed the bank to avoid a state bailout.
The Serious Fraud Office, which is prosecuting the case, alleges the four former Barclays’ executives misled shareholders, the market and other investors by not disclosing that Barclays paid an extra 322 million pounds to Qatar through two “advisory service agreements” over a decade ago.
The former executives – the most senior bankers to face a jury trial in Britain over credit crisis-era conduct – deny wrongdoing.
Varley and Agius had been jointly handed full authority to carry out a second capital raising after a meeting of a board finance committee, established by Barclays on Oct. 28, 2008. This included approving fees that were “fair and reasonable”, according to documents presented to the court.
“Matters were moving almost on an hourly basis,” Agius said, noting that a smaller decision-making group was more practical to secure strategic investors as markets gyrated in the credit crunch.
Agius, the first prosecution witness to give evidence, said he had been aware of underwriting fees and a 66 million pound payment for Qatar for helping bring on board Abu Dhabi investors in the October fundraising.
Qatari investors have not been accused of wrongdoing.
The trial is scheduled to last for up to six months.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley, editing by Sinead Cruise and Jane Merriman)