Barclays investors would have gone ‘completely nuts’ over secret Qatar fees, court hears

Former Barclays banker Richard Boath reportedly opposed the side-deal with Doha because he believed it was not right to pay one set of investors more than others. (Getty Images)
Updated 05 March 2019

Barclays investors would have gone ‘completely nuts’ over secret Qatar fees, court hears

  • Banker opposed side-deal with Doha, London court hears
  • Qatari investors must be as dishonest as those on trial if prosecution is correct, judge said

LONDON: Fellow investors in Barclays bank would have gone “completely nuts” if they knew about secret payments made to Qatar in its multibillion-dollar bailout of the UK lender, a London court heard on Monday.

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges that four bankers agreed to pay £322 million ($425 million) in fees to Qatar in exchange for investment during the 2008 financial crisis.

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

Former Barclays banker Richard Boath, one of the four defendants in the historic fraud case, opposed the side-deal with Doha because he believed it was not right to pay one set of investors more than others, Bloomberg reported.

Boath told this to SFO investigators in 2014, it emerged in court on Monday.

When someone on Boath’s team came up with the idea of channeling extra payments via advisory agreements to meet Qatar’s demands for extra commission, Barclays ex-Middle East head Roger Jenkins reportedly wanted to move ahead with the plan.

But Boath told SFO investigators he objected to this arrangement, according to a tape played to a London jury Monday.

“I said, ‘hang on, Roger,’” Boath said on the tape, according to Bloomberg.

“We can’t do a transaction in which we give one set of fees to the market or to one set of economics for one group of investors and we have a different set of economics for another set ... because if they found out they’ll go completely nuts. You can’t do that. We can’t do that.’ I was quite vigorous, because I felt it quite strongly.”

Jenkins agreed that it wasn’t worth the risk, Boath told the SFO, according to the taped interview with investigators.

“‘Well **** that,’” Jenkins replied, according to Boath.

Boath said neither he nor Jenkins felt it was worth doing the deal to protect former CEO John Varley, a co-defendant, and ex-investment bank head Bob Diamond, who is not accused of wrongdoing.

“I’m not taking a hit to save John and Bob’s job,” Boath recalled Jenkins saying, Bloomberg reported. “**** that.”

The secret fees were said to be paid to ensure Qatar would make an investment of £4 billion to help Barclays avoid a state bailout.

The SFO alleges that the four defendants — whom also include former wealth boss Tom Kalaris — lied to investors about the fees.

The four deny the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year sentence.

Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim and the state of Qatar are not part of the fraud 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 trial continues.

Singapore Airlines drops ‘flights to nowhere’ after outcry

Updated 29 September 2020

Singapore Airlines drops ‘flights to nowhere’ after outcry

  • Several carriers have been offering short flights that start and end at the same airport to raise cash

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines said Tuesday it had scrapped plans for “flights to nowhere” aimed at boosting its coronavirus-hit finances after an outcry over the environmental impact.
With the aviation industry in deep crisis, several carriers – including in Australia, Japan and Taiwan – have been offering short flights that start and end at the same airport to raise cash.
They are designed for travel-starved people keen to fly at a time of virus-related restrictions, and have proved surprisingly popular.
But Singapore’s flag carrier – which has grounded nearly all its planes and cut thousands of jobs – said it had ditched the idea following a review.
The carrier has come up with alternative ideas to raise revenue, including offering customers tours of aircraft and offering them the chance to dine inside an Airbus A380, the world’s biggest commercial airliner.
Environmental activists had voiced opposition to Singapore Airlines launching “flights to nowhere,” with group SG Climate Rally saying they would encourage “carbon-intensive travel for no good reason.”
“We believe air travel has always caused environmental harm, and it is now an opportune moment for us to think seriously about transitions instead of yearning to return to a destructive status quo.”
The airline said earlier this month it was cutting about 4,300 jobs, or 20 percent of its workforce, the latest carrier to make massive layoffs.
The International Air Transport Association estimates that airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific region stand to lose a combined $27.8 billion this year.
The group also forecasts that global air traffic is unlikely to return to pre-coronavirus levels until at least 2024.