LONDON (AP) — Three former Barclays bankers were cleared Friday of fraud over a 4 billion-pound ($5.2 billion) investment deal with Qatar at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008.
The three men — Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath — were acquitted after a five-month trial at London’s Old Bailey.
The case was brought by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, which had accused the three men of hiding the true nature of the fundraising plan with Qatar from authorities and other shareholders.
At the height of the financial crisis, many banks around the world, most famously Lehman Brothers went bust. Others, including British banks Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, were bailed out by the government. Barclays was struggling too, but managed to avoid a government bailout through two capital fundraisings, totaling 11.2 billion pounds. Without the Qatari money, there are questions as to whether the bank would have needed a bailout.
The Serious Fraud Office alleged the lucrative terms given to Qatar, including an extra 322 million pounds in fees, were hidden from the market and other investors through bogus advisory service agreements.
Jenkins, 64, was said to be Barclays’ “gatekeeper” of its relationship with the oil-rich Gulf state. Kalaris, also 64, was chief executive of Barclays’ wealth management division while Boath, 61, was a high-ranking member of Barclays Capital. All three are British citizens though Kalaris is an American-British dual national. A fourth man, Christopher Lucas, had been found unfit to face trial due to illness.
Speaking outside the court, Boath said he felt “very relieved” about the verdicts.
“I was very surprised they brought the case,” he said. “Frankly it was a complete invention on the part of the SFO and they should really never have brought it.”
The SFO is yet to disclose the cost of the investigation but the acquittal of the three men is the latest setback for the organization. It follows the acquittal of John Varley, Barclays’ chief executive in 2008, in a previous trial last year after a judge ruled that the agency hadn’t come up with enough evidence.
The SFO defended bringing the case against the three men.
“Our prosecution decisions are always based on the evidence that is available, and we are determined to bring perpetrators of serious financial crime to justice,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“Wherever our evidential and public interests tests are met, we will always endeavor to bring this before a court.”