Three former top Barclays executives have been cleared of fraud charges linked to how the bank raised billions from Qatar in the financial crisis.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had alleged the bank had given Qatar secret fees that helped it to survive without a UK government bailout in 2008.
Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris, and Richard Boath were found not guilty on all charges by the jury in under six hours.
Former Barclays chief executive John Varley was acquitted in June 2019.
The acquittal of the three men is a blow to the SFO and draws a line under an ambitious seven-and-a-half-year investigation that led to the first criminal charges in Britain against senior financiers at a major bank over credit crisis-era conduct.
An SFO spokesperson 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.”
Mr Boath, when leaving the Old Bailey on Friday morning, told the BBC: “I’m very relieved about the verdict, particularly given that I was cleared in 2017 by the Financial Conduct Authority.”
He added that the SFO should never have brought the case.
Mr Boath said the last six years had been tough. But phone calls recorded during the crisis and played to the jury made clear he was innocent. “Obviously there are ups and downs but today is a big up obviously. “
“I frankly couldn’t have done more in 2008 to make sure the bank didn’t do anything that it regretted and that really comes out on all the tapes and I think that was obvious to the jury.”
The acquittal of three former Barclays executives is the only time a jury has ruled on criminal allegations against senior bankers for events in the 2008 crisis.
The senior executives in this trial, which began in October – Roger Jenkins, 64, Tom Kalaris, 64 and Richard Boath, 61 – were not the top bosses of Barclays.
Instead, they were between one and four ranks down from the board of directors in the bank’s hierarchical structure.
The allegations centred on a giant fundraising exercise in 2008 which enabled Barclays to escape the nationalisation forced on its competitors, RBS, Lloyds and HBOS.
The defendants were accused by prosecutors of conspiring to commit fraud in connection with that fundraising effort.
They argued that it was not a fraud – and that if, alternatively, it was judged to be a fraud, they were not the ones who should be held accountable for it.
Their actions, their barristers said, were approved and negotiated at the top of the bank and signed off by the banks’ top lawyers.
In the end, the jury took less than six hours to find in their favour. The decision comes as a setback for the Serious Fraud Office, which took years to launch its prosecution and has now had its case thrown out.
- The inside story of the Barclays trial
The three former senior bankers were accused by the SFO of committing a fraud in the midst of the financial crisis – charges they have spent more than a year on trial denying.
In 2008, Barclays, like other banks, was running dangerously low on cash.
Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath helped to arrange a £12bn investment by sovereign wealth funds, including the Gulf state of Qatar.
However, the Qataris demanded more than double the fees paid to other investors.
The SFO said the bank decided to disguise their extra fees – £322m in total – by hiding them in what it said were pretend agreements for advisory services.
The defendants said the agreements were approved at the top of the bank and signed off by its lawyers.
Prosecutors had alleged Mr Jenkins, the head of the Middle East investment bank, Mr Kalaris, who ran Barclays’ wealth unit, and former financial institutions head Mr Boath conspired with former finance director Chris Lucas to disguise a £42m payment to Qatar.
The SFO said the bankers used a so-called “advisory services agreement” to mask the fact Barclays was paying Qatar more than twice the fees it was paying other investors that June.
Mr Jenkins, who was described as the “gatekeeper” to the Qatari relationship, was also charged over a £280m, five-year agreement struck with Qatar four months later.
Mr Lucas was not charged because he was too ill to stand trial.
Qatar, a major investor in the UK and still a significant Barclays shareholder, was neither investigated nor accused of wrongdoing.