The big one: Bob Diamond poaches Barclays banker for African project

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The Independent Online

Barclays' former chief executive, Bob Diamond, has brazenly poached a former senior colleague to become chief executive of his new African banking venture, Atlas Mara.

John Vitalo, who is currently chief executive of Barclays Middle East and North Africa and based in the United Arab Emirates, will join Atlas Mara once his departure terms have been agreed.

Mr Vitalo, a former US marine, joined Barclays' investment banking arm, Barclays Capital, in 2002 when it was run by Mr Diamond. The two worked closely together setting up Absa Capital at Barclays' South African bank subsidiary.

Mr Diamond said: "I am delighted that John has agreed to become Atlas Mara's chief executive officer.

"I have worked with him over many years. He is a business builder, deeply knowledgeable in the critical areas of technology and risk, and he is trusted by his colleagues and clients. I couldn't imagine a better leader for this group."

Barclays has declined to comment on Mr Vitalo's poaching.

It came just a day after the bank settled a long-standing court case based on the Libor scandal, which could have seen Mr Diamond and other former senior executives called to give evidence.

Barclays reached an out-of-court settlement, restructuring a £70m interest-rate swap it had arranged for Guardian Care Homes, which claimed the bank had known about Libor rigging at the time.

Atlas also said that it had signed a deal to take over the commercial arm of the Development Bank of Rwanda, on the 20th anniversary of the genocide there. Mr Diamond's co-founder, Ashish Thakkar, was a refugee from the genocide.

Messrs Diamond and Thakkar put $20m (£11.9m) into Atlas and raised a further $305m through a placing on the London stock market in December.

Last week it paid $265m for BancABC, which has businesses in a number of Sub-Saharan countries, including Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Atlas shares have been suspended until the acquisition is completed.

Mr Diamond's new bank has said it wants to become Africa's leading financial services firm by providing capital, liquidity and funding to banks in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to grow faster than the rest of the world in coming years.

Only about one in four Sub-Saharan Africans have bank accounts at the moment, making the region a target for banks such as Barclays, and Standard Chartered as well.