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.