Barclays payments to Qatar would have been ‘unacceptable’ to market, London court hears

Former Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, was the first witness to testify in the trial of four former Barclays executives. (Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2019
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Barclays payments to Qatar would have been ‘unacceptable’ to market, London court hears

  • The UK Serious Fraud Office alleges that four bankers agreed to pay £322 million in secret fees to Qatar
  • It is claimed that Barclays agreed to pay Qatar more than double the standard 1.5 percent investment commission and hid this from other investors

LONDON: Former Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius could not remember if he was told the bank was paying higher fees to Qatar than other investors during an £11.2 billion ($14.6 billion) fundraising in the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, a London court heard on Tuesday.

However he said that paying such commission to one set of underwriters and not the other would have been “unacceptable to the market.” Agius is not accused of any wrongdoing.

He was the first witness to testify in the trial of four former Barclays executives, who include the then CEO John Varley.

“I would have wanted to understand why it would’ve been necessary,” he told the court.

The UK Serious Fraud Office alleges that the four bankers agreed to pay £322 million in secret fees to Qatar.

During the fraud trial — which began in January — the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays.

It is claimed that Barclays agreed to pay Qatar more than double the standard 1.5 percent investment commission and hid this from other investors by making the payments through what prosecutors alleged were bogus Advisory Services Agreements, or ASAs, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Agius also told the court that he feared resignations from the board in 2008.

“Any one of them might have said, ‘This wasn’t what I signed up for, how do I get out of here?,’” he said.

“I’m clear that in June 2008 we at Barclays did not anticipate how much worse things were going to get. I don’t think we thought it was going to go as badly as it ultimately did.”


China bemoans US ‘bullying’ of Huawei

Updated 23 May 2019
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China bemoans US ‘bullying’ of Huawei

  • The trade spat between US and China escalated after President Donald Trump issued orders last week on grounds of national security
  • Trump’s move effectively bans US companies from supplying Huawei and affiliates with critical components

BEIJING: China’s foreign minister has slammed US moves against telecom giant Huawei as “economic bullying,” and warned that Beijing was ready to “fight to the very end” in its trade war with Washington.
The trade spat between the world’s top two economies escalated after President Donald Trump issued orders on grounds of national security last week that have prompted several foreign firms to distance themselves from Huawei.
“The US use of state power to arbitrarily exert pressure on a private Chinese company like Huawei is typical economic bullying,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday at a meeting in Kyrgyzstan of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security group led by Beijing and Moscow.
Trump’s move effectively bans US companies from supplying Huawei and affiliates with critical components over activities the US says are contrary its national security or foreign policy interests.
Japan’s Panasonic announced on Thursday that it was cutting back business with Huawei in light of the US ban. A day earlier, mobile carriers in Japan and Britain said they would postpone the release of Huawei smartphones.
“Some people in the United States do not want China to enjoy the legitimate right to develop, and seek to impede its development process,” Wang said, according to a foreign ministry statement issued late Wednesday.
“This extremely presumptuous and egocentric American approach is not able to gain the approval and support of the international community.”
The two countries have yet to set a date to recommence trade negotiations after they resumed their tariffs battle earlier this month, with Trump raising punitive duties on $200 billion in Chinese goods and Beijing hiking those on $60 billion in American products.
Trump has accused China of reneging on its commitments in the trade negotiations. Beijing has countered that any deal needs to be balanced.
“It is impossible for us to sign or recognize an agreement that is unequal,” Wang said.
“If the United States is willing to negotiate on an equal footing, then on the Chinese side, the door is wide open. But if the United States opts for a policy of maximum pressure, then China will take them on and fight to the end,” he said.