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.”