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.