By DANICA KIRKA
LONDON (AP) — British regulators charged Barclays bank and four former executives, including then-CEO John Varley, with conspiracy to commit fraud when they asked Qatar for 6.1 billion ($7.7 billion) to avoid a government bailout at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.
The Serious Fraud Office announced the charges Tuesday following an investigation into two rounds of fundraising from Qatar in June and October of 2008. The probe centered on two side agreements under which Barclays paid the Qatari investors 322 million pounds over five years, the bank disclosed in 2013.
The charges are the first in Britain against a bank and former executives for activities during the 2008 financial crisis.
The fundraising efforts in 2008 came as banks around the world struggled to keep their doors open. Britain’s Northern Rock was forced out of business, while Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group were forced to accept billions of pounds of state aid and the government oversight that came with it.
The SFO’s announcement comes as another blow to current Barclays CEO Jes Staley, who is trying to repair the bank’s reputation following a series of scandals while facing an investigation into his own conduct after he attempted to identify a whistle-blower. Barclays shares were down 1 percent in late trading on the London Stock Exchange.
Barclays said it is “considering its position” and “awaits further details of the charges from the SFO.”
Varley, 61, former investment banking chief Roger Jenkins, 61, Thomas Kalaris, 61, who headed the bank’s wealth management division, and Roger Boath, 58, head of the European financial institutions group, were all charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to the first round of fundraising. Barclays, Varley and Jenkins were charged with another count in regard to the second round, as well as a separate charge of providing unlawful financial assistance.
The four are scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 3, together with a representative of the bank.