Serious Fraud Office investigating Barclays’ Middle Eastern bailout

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The Serious Fraud Office is investigating Barclays’ Middle Eastern rescue during the financial crisis.

The Independent revealed earlier this month that the Financial Services Authority had passed information to the agency about its investigation into the affair.

Barclays revealed last month that the FSA was investigating four current and former employees over disclosures of commissions linked to two fund-raisings in 2008. Its finance chief Chris Lucas is one of the four.

The bank raised a total of £11.5bn in two separate cash calls in June and November of that year. The inquiry is thought to be focusing on the Qatari end of those deals which also involved the Japanese corporation Sumitomo Mitsui, in June, and Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour in November. The deals were controversial because new investors were offered very favourable terms not available to all shareholders. The commissions paid to some investors were also seen as high compared to the usual costs of raising funds in the City of London, although even critics accepted that the circumstances at the time were highly unusual.

The cash raised spared Barclays from having to call upon the UK taxpayer for funds. No suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part any of the investors who poured cash into Barclays to shore up its finances has ever been made.

Barclays has been reeling since it agreed to pay fines totalling £290m to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic over attempts by its traders to manipulate Libor interest rates. The SFO is already in the midst of an investigation into the traders’ actions which it announced earlier last month.

The Libor-fixing scandal led to the resignations of the then Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, his No 2 Jerry del Missier and the bank’s chairman, Marcus Agius. It is known that neither Mr Diamond or Mr del Missier are part of the FSA’s investigation into the Middle Eastern rescue. The same is understood to be true of the SFO.

The former chief executive John Varley was closely involved in the raising the Middle Eastern funds as was Barclays’ former Middle Eastern chief Roger Jenkins, who was one of Britain’s best-paid bankers.

Neither the FSA nor the SFO was prepared to comment.