A jury took less than six hours on Friday to clear three former Barclays bosses of fraud charges surrounding deals made with Qatar during the global financial crisis.
In a sobering defeat to the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office in a high-profile case that lasted seven years, former Barclays executives Roger Jenkins, 64, Thomas Kalaris, 64, and Richard Boath, 61, walked free from London’s Central Criminal Court – known as the Old Bailey.
The case against the bankers revolved around undisclosed payments to Qatar dating back to 2008 as Barclays raised more than 1.2 billion British pounds ($14.2bn at current rates) from investors to avoid a government bailout as the global financial system flirted with collapse.
Qatar, a major investor in the UK, was not accused of any wrongdoing.
The SFO alleged the lucrative terms given to Qatar, including an extra 322 million pounds ($423m) in fees, were hidden from the market and other investors through bogus advisory service agreements.
But multi-millionaire Jenkins was acquitted of fraud, alongside his former colleagues, following a five-month trial.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about five and a half hours.
Speaking outside court, Boath said he was “very relieved” by the verdicts.
“I was very surprised they brought the case. Frankly, it was a complete invention on the part of the SFO and they should really never have brought it,” he said.
“If there was a case against the bank or any of the people in the bank, the agreements were signed off at the board, so none of the defendants were on the board, had any access to the board … and that’s point about the SFO case, it didn’t make any sense at all.”
The SFO is yet to disclose the cost of the investigation, which began in August 2012.
It is understood that a core team of eight people worked on the case at any one time, consisting of investigators and lawyers.
Two charges of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and one charge of unlawful financial assistance against Barclays were dismissed by a judge in May 2018, and in October the SFO failed in a High Court bid to reverse the decision.
At the time of the alleged fraud, each of the defendants held very senior positions at the firm.
Jenkins was Barclays Capital (“BarCap”) executive chairman of investment banking and investment management in the Middle East and North Africa; Kalaris was Barclays’ wealth management CEO and Boath was BarCap head of financial institutions group for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Jenkins, of Malibu, California; Kalaris, of Thurloe Square, west London; and Boath, of Henley-on-Thames, were acquitted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and fraud by false representation between May 1, 2008, and August 31, 2008.
Jenkins was also acquitted of two similar offences dated between September 1, 2008, and November 30, 2008.
Jurors were told that a fourth man, Christopher Lucas, had been found unfit to face trial due to illness.
The three bankers originally went on trial in January last year alongside former Barclays Chief Executive John Varley.
However, in April last year, a judge dismissed the charges against them, saying the SFO did not have enough evidence to proceed.
The SFO appealed against the decision, but it was upheld in relation to Varley by the Court of Appeal.
Jessica Parker and Peter Binning, partners at Corker Binning who represented Varley, said, “Our client John Varley was discharged at the first trial in April 2019 when the trial judge ruled he had no case to answer.
“The prosecution appeal failed. Today’s verdicts finally bring this very long-running prosecution to an end. The verdicts raise serious questions about the SFO decision to bring the case.”
An SFO spokesman said: “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. “Wherever our evidential and public interest tests are met, we will always endeavour to bring this before a court.”