Barclays has admitted it had changed tack and borrowed cheap money from the European Central Bank in this week's huge liquidity boost. It said yesterday it had taken €8.2bn (£6.9bn) in the long-term refinancing operation, having not done so in the previous round in September.
The move came as something of a surprise since Barclays likes to claim it survived the financial crisis without recourse to taxpayer money.
Its chief executive Bob Diamond told the Treasury Select Committee in January 2011: "We never failed a stress test, we never put the system at risk. We never took a single penny from any taxpayer around the world."
Today, Barclays is using money provided not by the UK taxpayer but by the taxpayers of the 17 eurozone countries. It goes into its Spanish and Portuguese offshoots.
The bank said it would ring-fence any profits which come from having access to cheap money and the profits would not contribute to bonuses. Barclays' disclosure leaves state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland the only major UK bank which has yet to reveal how much it has borrowed from the facility after Lloyds took €13.5bn and HSBC borrowed €350m. An RBS source said: "By the letter of the law we are not allowed to [reveal the amount]."
Wednesday's long-term refinancing operations saw €530bn handed out.