Former Barclays bosses face London trial over Qatari cash call

Barclays secured around £12 billion ($15 billion) in emergency funds from mainly Gulf investors as markets plunged in 2008, allowing it to avoid the state bailouts. (Reuters)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Former Barclays bosses face London trial over Qatari cash call

  • Barclays secured around £12 billion ($15 billion) in emergency funds from mainly Gulf investors as markets plunged in 2008
  • Qatar, a major investor in Britain, has not been accused of wrongdoing

LONDON: The most senior bankers to face criminal charges in Britain over conduct during the financial crisis will appear before a London jury next week in a trial that will test the mettle of the Serious Fraud Office.
Former Barclays CEO John Varley and three one-time colleagues stand charged over deals with Qatari investors to secure cash injections that allowed the bank, that can trace its origins back to around 1690, to survive the crisis a decade ago.
The trial, scheduled to start on Monday and slated to last for up to four months, is expected to begin with lengthy legal, procedural arguments before prosecutors open their case.
Varley, who married into one of the families that helped build Barclays, Roger Jenkins, the one-time chairman of the Middle Eastern banking arm, Tom Kalaris, an American former wealth division CEO and Richard Boath, a former European divisional head, are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.
Varley, renowned for trademark bright braces and Jenkins, now based in California, also face a separate charge of unlawful financial assistance — a practice of companies lending money to fund the purchase of their own stock.
Lawyers for Boath and Kalaris declined to comment, while legal representatives for the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment.
When charges were filed in June 2017, a lawyer for Jenkins said his client would vigorously defend himself against the allegations. Boath said at the time he had no case to answer.
Barclays secured around £12 billion ($15 billion) in emergency funds from mainly Gulf investors as markets plunged in 2008, allowing it to avoid the state bailouts taken by rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.
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 about £6 billion in the bank.
But the SFO, which prosecutes serious white collar crime, has charged the men over “capital raising arrangements” with Qatar Holding and Challenger in June and October 2008 and a $3 billion loan facility Barclays made available to Qatar in November 2008.
Qatar, a major investor in Britain, has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Lawyers say the performance of the SFO will be under as much scrutiny as that of the well-heeled defendants after a court threw out its separate charges against Barclays over the capital raising — and a judge last month halted its prosecution of former senior Tesco supermarket managers mid-trial.
Lisa Osofsky, who took the top job at the agency last August, has stood back from handling the Barclays case because of a potential conflict of interest linked to her previous work.
The new year has started briskly for the SFO. Its retrial of three former Barclays traders accused of plotting to rig Euribor global interest rates kicks off on Jan. 14. A jury was unable to reach a verdict in their case last year.


Tokyo court rejects ex-Nissan chair Ghosn’s latest bail request

Updated 18 min 26 sec ago
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Tokyo court rejects ex-Nissan chair Ghosn’s latest bail request

  • Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has been in custody since November 19
  • A Tokyo court rejected an earlier request for bail last week

TOKYO: A Tokyo court has rejected former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn’s latest request for bail, more than two months after his arrest, prolonging a detention that has drawn international scrutiny of Japan’s justice system.
The decision by the Tokyo District Court came a day after Ghosn promised to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, give up his passport and pay for security guards approved by prosecutors to gain release from a Tokyo detention center.
The court announced its decision in a statement. His family said they will appeal.
Ghosn, 64, has been in custody since November 19. He had a bail hearing Monday. A Tokyo court rejected an earlier request for bail last week.
Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, has been charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his compensation from Nissan over eight years, and with breach of trust, centering on allegations Ghosn had Nissan temporarily shoulder his personal investment losses and pay a Saudi businessman.
Ghosn has said he is innocent, explaining that the alleged compensation was never decided, Nissan didn’t suffer losses and the payment was for legitimate services.
His wife Carole Ghosn appealed for his release through Human Rights Watch earlier this month, saying Ghosn’s treatment has been harsh and unfair.
Her views echo widespread criticism of Japan’s criminal justice system both inside and outside Japan. Suspects who insist they are innocent get held longer. Suspects are held in a cell and routinely grilled daily by investigators without a lawyer present, although lawyers are allowed to visit.
Ghosn’s lawyer Motonari Ohtsuru has acknowledged Ghosn’s release may not come until the trial, which may be six months away. A date for the trial has not been set.
Nissan officials say an internal investigation has found that Ghosn had schemes to hide his income and that he used company money and assets for personal gain.
A special committee Nissan set up after Ghosn’s arrest to strengthen governance held its first meeting Sunday. Seiichiro Nishioka, a former judge and co-chair, told reporters after the meeting that Ghosn had shown questionable ethics, and too much power within the company had been focused in one person. The committee’s findings are due by late March.
Ghosn’s pay was long a sticking point in Japan, where executives generally get paid far less than their American and other Western counterparts. Ghosn insisted he deserved his higher pay because of his achievements, saying he could have left for another job.
Nissan was on the verge of bankruptcy when alliance partner Renault SA of France sent in Ghosn to help revive it in 1999. Under Ghosn’s leadership, Nissan turned itself around and became one of the most successful auto groups in the world. Ghosn also helped Nissan pioneer ecological auto technology. The Nissan Leaf is the top-selling electric car.