Barclays is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over Qatar

After announcing rubbish results and job cuts last week, some of the bank's former top bods, including Bob Diamond, are being questioned by the UK fraud office.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 10 Jul 2014

Barclays is having ‘one of those weeks’: after announcing torrid results last Tuesday and several thousand new job cuts a couple of days later, it’s come out that former chief execs Bob Diamond and John Varley and other ex senior bankers are now being questioned by the Serious Fraud Office over alleged corruption surrounding Qatar’s investment in the bank at the height of the financial crisis.

Diamond, Varley, former finance director Chris Lucas and the ex head of the bank’s tax advisory business Roger Jenkins are among those who have been interviewed under caution or called for interview by the SFO, according to anonymous sources speaking to the FT.

Being interviewed under caution doesn’t need an arrest, but suggests the SFO believes it could have reasonable grounds to suspect someone has committed a crime. It’s also preceded by the ominous warning: ‘You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court.’

The Financial Conduct Authority said last year it wants to fine Barclays £50m over fees paid to Qatar Holding, the oil-flush sheikhdom’s sovereign wealth fund that invested £4.6bn in the bank in 2008. Amanda Staveley acted for emirate Abu Dhabi, which put £3.5bn into the bank, reportedly earning around £30m for her role. The combined investments saved Barclays from a government bail-out a la RBS and Lloyds.

Barclays reported paying Qatar £322m in ‘advisory fees’. However, the FCA, SFO, the US justice department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission all think they smell a rat and are alleging there wasn’t actually an awful lot of ‘advising’ going on.

Varley, Jenkins, Lucas, Barclays and Qatar Holding all stayed schtum on the SFO’s probe. Diamond, who was head of the investment bank (revenues of which plunged 28% in the first quarter of this year) when Barclays secured the Qatari investment, denied wrongdoing.

‘Mr Diamond will continue to assist wherever he can on anything related to Barclays, but he is unable to comment on any specific inquiry. He is very proud of his tenure at the bank,’ a spokesman for Diamond told the FT.

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