Former Qatar PM ‘sought state assurance’ over Barclays shares, fraud trial hears

Sheikh Hamad had sought assurances that his investment would not be affected should a government bailout happen. (Reuters)
Updated 01 March 2019

Former Qatar PM ‘sought state assurance’ over Barclays shares, fraud trial hears

  • Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim reportedly requested that investment ‘would not be forcibly diluted’
  • Qatar investors must be as dishonest as bankers if prosecution’s argument is correct, judge said

LONDON: Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim sought assurances from the highest levels of UK government in an attempt to protect his and Doha’s shares in Barclays bank, a fraud trial heard this week.

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges that four bankers agreed to pay £322 million ($425 million) in secret fees to Qatar in exchange for billions of dollars of investment during the financial crisis.

The SFO alleges that this was done through “sham” advisory services agreements.

Barclays avoided a government bailout as a result of the emergency fundraising.

During the fraud trial, which began in January, defendant John Varley — the bank’s former chief — said that Sheikh Hamad had sought assurances that his investment would not be affected should a government bailout happen.

“I believe Sheikh Hamad sought assurances from the prime minister, Gordon Brown, that the Qatari investment in Barclays would not be forcibly diluted by a mandatory British government investment,” Varley told investigators, according to the Financial Times.

Varley added that Sheikh Hamad sought similar assurance from the Financial Services Authority regulator, the newspaper reported.

Sheikh Hamad and Qatar are not part of the trial. But Judge Robert Jay, who is presiding over the trial, earlier told jurors that Qatari investors must be just as dishonest as the bankers on trial if the prosecution’s argument is correct, according to The Telegraph.

The judge said a “contract needs two parts,” and that if the prosecution’s case is correct, it must mean that “one or more individuals comprising or connected with the Qatari entity was equally dishonest in the criminal sense. There is no getting around that,” he was reported as saying in January.

The four defendants in the case deny the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year sentence. The trial continues.

Russia vows cooperation with OPEC to keep oil market balanced

Updated 21 November 2019

Russia vows cooperation with OPEC to keep oil market balanced

  • Moscow not aiming to be world’s No.1 crude producer, Putin tells annual investment forum

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have “a common goal” of keeping the oil market balanced and predictable, and Moscow will continue cooperation under the global supply curbs deal.

OPEC meets on Dec. 5 in Vienna, followed by talks with a group of other exporters, including Russia, known as OPEC+.

“Our (common with OPEC) goal is for the market to be balanced, acceptable for producers and consumers and the most important — and I want to underline this — predictable,” Putin told a forum on Wednesday.

In October, Russia cut its oil output to 11.23 million barrels per day (bpd) from 11.25 million bpd in September but it was still higher than a 11.17-11.18 million bpd cap set for Moscow under the existing global deal. Putin told the forum that Russia’s oil production was growing slightly despite the supply curbs deal but Moscow was not aiming to be the world’s No. 1 crude producer. Currently, the US is the world’s top oil producer.

“Russia has a serious impact on the global energy market but the most impact we achieve (is) when working along with other key producers,” he said. “There was a moment not that long ago when Russia was the world’s top oil producer — this is not our goal.”

Russia plans to produce between 556 million and 560 million tons of oil this year (11.17-11.25 million bpd), Energy Minister Alexander Novak said separately on Wednesday, depending on the volume of gas condensate produced during cold months.

Russia will aim to stick to its commitments under the deal in November, Novak told reporters.

Russia includes gas condensate — a side product also known as a “light oil” produced when companies extract natural gas — into its overall oil production statistics, which some other oil producing countries do not do.

As Russia is gradually increasing liquefied natural gas production (LNG), the share of gas condensate it is producing is also growing. Gas condensate now accounts for around 6 percent of Russian oil production.

Novak told reporters that in winter, Russia traditionally produces more gas condensate as it is launching new gas fields in the freezing temperatures.

“We believe that gas condensate should not be taken into account (of overall oil production statistics), as this is an absolutely different area related to gas production and gas supplies,” he said.

Three sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Russia is unlikely to agree to deepen cuts in oil output at a meeting with fellow exporters next month, but could commit to extend existing curbs to support Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, Novak declined to say that Russia’s position would be at upcoming OPEC+ meeting. Reuters uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels per ton of oil.