Barclay wins in Qatar case

Suzi Ring and Stephen Morris

Barclays has said a London court has dismissed all the charges against the bank and its parent company over a 2008 capital raising with Qatar, in a big win for the lender that has been dogged by legal issues for a decade.

The court dismissed two charges of “conspiring with certain former senior officers and employees of Barclays to commit fraud,” the bank said.

The court also tossed out two charges of unlawful financial assistance, one against the bank and another against its holding company, in relation to a $3bn (€2.5bn) loan provided to Qatar in 2008.

Barclays denied the allegation by the Serious Fraud Office that a $3bn (€2.55bn) loan it made to Qatar in November 2008 was connected with a Qatari investment in the British bank which ultimately helped it avoid a British government rescue during the financial crisis. The ruling, if upheld, is good news for Barclays because any conviction of the operating unit could have hurt the lender’s ability to do business globally.

It builds on a series of regulatory decisions that have gone the bank’s way this year, including settling a long-running US probe into the sale of toxic mortgage bonds for half the penalty prosecutors initially wanted, as well as chief executive Jes Staley getting off with only a fine after a UK investigation into his attempts to uncover a whistleblower.

Prosecutors at the Serious Fraud Office will likely seek to reinstate the charges by applying to a High Court judge to restart the proceedings through a new indictment, the bank said.

And the Serious Fraud Office was not prepared to let the case drop. “We are likely to seek to reinstate the charges by applying to the High Court,” a spokesman said. Four former executives from the bank are also facing prosecution over the deal that allowed Barclays to avoid a state bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.

At the heart of the case are two advisory services agreements with Qatar Holding in 2008 totalling £322m (€368m), the nature of which are now being questioned. Shares of the bank are little changed in the past year. The decision is a rare win for a UK defendant seeking to throw out charges, as judges typically give prosecutors great deference. Successful dismissals are often on the basis of technicalities involving the laws used to charge or, in the case of a company, if the right part of the entity was charged, rather than evidence.

- Bloomberg. Additional reporting Reuters

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