Qatar pressured Barclays bosses to mask PM’s holdings, UK court told

Former prime minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani. (Reuters)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Qatar pressured Barclays bosses to mask PM’s holdings, UK court told

  • Prosecutors for the Serious Fraud Office present internal documents to UK court in bank funding case
  • Sheikh Hamad wanted to remain ‘under the radar,’ emails suggest

LONDON: Qatari officials put pressure on Barclays officials to mask the former prime minister of the Gulf state’s planned holding in the bank, a London court heard on Monday.

A high-profile legal case in London centers on allegations that four former executives from Barclays conspired to commit fraud by false representations when Barclays raised more than £11 billion ($14 billion) from investors in 2008.

Prosecutors allege the bankers hid from public documents around £322 million in secret fees paid to the Qatari investors as they fought to meet their tough demands.

As part of the ongoing case, prosecutors for the UK’s Serious Fraud Office on Monday presented internal emails and phone calls to the jury, The Guardian reported.

The documents detailed discussions on how Barclays might disclose Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani’s planned stake in the bank via Challenger, his British Virgin Islands (BVI)-based investment vehicle.

In a phone call played to the jury Richard Boath, the bank’s former European financial institutions boss, recalled how Sheikh Hamad told the bank’s executives that “he’d like his family to have some shares in Barclays.”

In one email, Boath said he was told that Sheikh Hamad “wants to have a very low profile” and “would prefer that HE’s BVI-based investment vehicle be our fifth investor and sign its own subscription agreement,” The Guardian reported.

In the email exchange with the Qataris’ head of legal, Ahmad Al-Sayad, Boath noted that “we would be required to disclose the identity of this vehicle,” the court heard. Al-Sayad responded that Barclays “should find a way to finesse this in order to keep HE under the radar.”
The four ex-Barclays employees have all denied the charges against them in the trail, which is expected to last up to six months.

Prosecutors have not accused Qatar or officials from that country of wrongdoing.


Hong Kong economy stalls amid US-China trade dispute: finance chief

Updated 17 February 2019
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Hong Kong economy stalls amid US-China trade dispute: finance chief

  • ‘The impact of China-US trade frictions on Hong Kong’s exports has clearly emerged at the end of last year’
  • Economic growth in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for the last quarter of 2018 was less than 1.5 percent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s economy stalled last year as the ongoing China-US trade dispute and retail woes dragged down local business, the city’s financial chief said Sunday.
Beijing and Washington have already imposed duties on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, roiling global financial markets and weighing heavily on manufacturing output in both countries.
“The impact of China-US trade frictions on Hong Kong’s exports has clearly emerged at the end of last year,” said finance secretary Paul Chan.
Economic growth in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for the last quarter of 2018 was less than 1.5 percent — the weakest since the first quarter of 2016 and a “significant slowdown” from the average growth rate of 3.7 percent in the first three quarters, Chan wrote on his official blog.
The slowdown brought last year’s growth rate to an estimated three percent, down from the higher-than-forecast 3.8 percent recorded in 2017, he added.
“It was almost ‘zero-growth’ for commodities exports in the fourth quarter, which was a sharp drop compared to the average 6 percent growth in the first three quarters,” he wrote.
Chan said consumer sentiment had also dampened with retail sales rising only 2.1 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, a far cry from the more than 12 percent increase in the first half of the year.
“The external political and economic situation remains unclear ... Therefore, we repeatedly stress the need to support enterprises, safeguard employment, stabilize the economy and benefit people’s livelihoods,” he wrote, hinting at the ongoing trade negotiations between the world’s top two economies.
Chan is expected to deliver the Hong Kong budget on February 27.