UK fraud office failed to get key Qatar documents for Barclays trial

Former Barclays' banker Roger Jenkins arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London, Britain, January 23, 2019. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 March 2019
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UK fraud office failed to get key Qatar documents for Barclays trial

  • Two Qatari companies invested around £4 bn in Barclays
  • SFO investigator David Webb told the jury on Thursday it had taken 18 months to two-years to get “essential” documents

LONDON: Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) failed to take “reasonable and appropriate” steps to get key documents from Qatar’s US lawyers before a fraud trial of four former Barclays executives, a London criminal court heard on Thursday.
The jury was told that Judge Robert Jay had ruled in January on the SFO’s failure to obtain the documents from Latham & Watkins, before the start of the landmark court case against former Barclays CEO John Varley and former senior colleagues: Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath.
The men are on trial over side deals struck by the British bank when it raised more than 11 billion pounds ($14.5 billion) from investors, including Qatar, to stave off a state bailout in June and October 2008 at the height of the credit crisis.
Prosecutors allege the men, who are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, misled shareholders and other investors by not disclosing that Barclays paid an extra 322 million pounds to Qatar through advisory service agreements (ASAs) that were not genuine.
The men deny wrongdoing. In documents shown to the court during the prosecution’s case, they say they relied on legal advice at the time.
Boath, the only defendant to answer SFO questions in 2014 and 2016 that went beyond a prepared statement, was told the agreements were legal as long as Qatar provided valuable services, according to extracts of interview transcripts shown to the court. He said he was confident that Jenkins, who had the relationship with Qatar, would deliver, the court heard.
The flagship SFO case marks the first criminal charges filed in Britain against such senior bankers over credit crisis-era conduct. The trial has offered a rare glimpse into how Barclays battled to avoid state control by clinching a rescue deal with Qatar over a decade ago.
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 around 4.0 billion pounds in Barclays in two capital raisings in June and October 2008.
In so-called “agreed facts” between prosecutors and the defense read out by the prosecution, the jury at Southwark Crown Court was told that the SFO had not interviewed or investigated either Qatari party.
The judge had also noted that although documents held by Qatar’s lawyers Latham & Watkins were probably covered by legal privilege, the SFO had had options to try and obtain them, the jury heard.
SFO investigator David Webb told the jury on Thursday it had taken 18 months to two-years to get “essential” documents from Barclays that the bank originally said were privileged — confidential advice by lawyers for clients — before it waived privilege.
The judge asked Webb if he had asked Boath whether the former director knew that the ASA was never intended to provide genuine services.
“I don’t know,” he said. “If I did say that it would be on the transcript.”
Prosecutors have now closed their case, marking the formal half-way stage in the trial. The judge dismissed the jury until April 1 to allow for lengthy “discussions of law” to begin, he said.


Hyundai invests $300 million to help India’s Ola battle Uber

Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market. (Reuters)
Updated 33 min 43 sec ago
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Hyundai invests $300 million to help India’s Ola battle Uber

  • Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market
  • Ola says it handles around a billion rides a year across India’s major centers

MUMBAI: Indian taxi-hailing company Ola has secured a $300-million investment from South Korean car giant Hyundai, the firms said Tuesday, providing a major boost in its fight against US giant Uber.
Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market, which is estimated to be worth around $10 billion and growing fast.
The new money, from Hyundai’s subsidiary Kia Motors, will largely be used to help Ola increase its electric vehicle fleet, the companies said in a joint statement.
“Our partnership with Ola will certainly accelerate our efforts to transform into a smart mobility solutions provider,” Hyundai executive vice chairman Chung Eui-sun said in the statement.
Bangalore-based Ola announced last year that it planned to put a million electric vehicles on India roads by 2021.
Ride-hailing apps are booming in the country despite stiff opposition from traditional taxi firms and some initial concerns about passenger safety.
Ola says it handles around a billion rides a year across India’s major centers, as well as seven cities in Australia.
In 2018, Ola also announced operations in Britain as part of a drive into other markets as competition with Uber intensifies on home turf.