How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

The offices of Barclays in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London. (Reuters)
Updated 16 February 2019

How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

  • The story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar
  • During the fraud trial, the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays

LONDON: The London trial of former Barclays executives accused of fraud over a deal with Qatar during the global banking crisis of 2008 has attracted global media coverage.
The opening of the case at London’s Southwark Crown Court saw a courtroom so packed that reporters had to request tickets to gain entry.
But the story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar — where much of the drama originates.
At the time, Barclays raised billions of pounds from Qatar in a move that allowed the bank to avoid taking a government bailout.
During the fraud trial — which began in January — the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays.
International coverage of the trial has been extensive.
On Jan. 25 under a story headlined:“Barclays executives discussed ‘dodgy’ fee for Qatari PM, jury told,” the Financial Times reported on a fee demanded by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani for investing in the then ailing bank
“You can’t have the prime minister of Qatar as an adviser to Barclays Bank  . . .  It’s like having the President of the United States (as) advisers to JPMorgan; you just can’t have it,” said Roger Jenkins, known as “big dog” by his colleagues, and the “gatekeeper” of Barclays’ relationship with Sheikh Hamad. I don’t know what to do with this  . . .  he wants his money.”
On Jan. 30, The Guardian reported that Barclays’ lawyers did not object to £322 million in fees paid to Qatar and that the bank’s legal team had “persuaded themselves” that the 2008 agreement was lawful.

But while the international media have devoured the sensational revelations around Qatar’s involvement in the 2008 Barclays bailout, the appetite of the Doha-based media for the story has been somewhat muted.
The only mention of Barclays in state-owned Al Jazeera Arabic was in November last year. Similarly, the only mention of the case in Al Sharq was published in May, titled: “Barclays cleared of obtaining a Qatari loan.” There was no other mention of the accusations against the executives .
The muted coverage has raised questions by some media analysts over whether Doha-based Al Jazeera and its Arabic-language service deliberately downplay stories that reflect negatively on Qatar. “There is no longer a need to make much effort to prove that Al Jazeera has become far from professional,” said Abdellatif El-Menawy, a writer and columnist.
“So it was normal to select from news and events what is consistent with the policy and interests of its owners.
And also, to ignore what it considers to be disclosure of abuses by Qatari officials, even if they are proven or circulating in the media.”

US impeachment hearings grab media spotlight

Updated 53 min 44 sec ago

US impeachment hearings grab media spotlight

  • Televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine will begin in the US this week

WASHINGTON: This week will mark a new and unparalleled chapter in Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency, as the Democratic-led impeachment probe goes public with televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Beginning on Wednesday, three witnesses will publicly detail their concerns, previously expressed behind closed doors, that the Trump administration sought to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the Republican president’s potential Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

The testimony will be carried by major broadcast and cable networks and is expected to be viewed by millions, who will watch current and former officials from Trump’s own administration begin to outline a case for his potential removal from office.

It has been 20 years since Americans last witnessed impeachment proceedings, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives argue Trump abused his authority in pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which will hold the hearings on Wednesday and Friday this week, accused Trump on Sunday of “extortion.”

“We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent,” Swalwell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Trump argued on Twitter that he was not guilty of misconduct and that the probe was politically driven. “NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!” he wrote on Sunday.

Democrats consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a formal impeachment vote against Trump. If that occurs, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges. Republicans have so far shown little support for removing Trump from office, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. The House Intelligence Committee will first hear from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, who told the committee in closed-door testimony that he was unhappy US aid to the country was held up by the administration.

Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he described as an “irregular channel” of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

George Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees Ukraine, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing as well. Kent was also concerned about Giuliani’s role in conducting shadow diplomacy — and has testified that he was cut out of
the decision-making loop on Ukraine matters.

On Friday, the committee will hear from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She says she was ousted from her post after Giuliani and his allies mounted a campaign against her with what she called “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this week.

House Republicans released their list on Saturday of witnesses they would like brought before the committee, including Hunter Biden and the yet-unnamed whistleblower who first brought the complaint against Trump over his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is unlikely to summon either to testify, and even some Republicans have opposed the push from Trump and some of his supporters that the whistleblower be identified.

“I think we should be protecting the identity of the whistleblower,” Will Hurd, a former CIA officer and a Republican member of the committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program, “because how we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future.”