Barclays' former chairman says he was completely in the dark over deal with Qataris during the financial crisis

  • Former Barclays chairman Marcus Agius is giving evidence as part of a major trial relating to alleged fraudulent behaviour by bank executives during the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Agius, chairman between 2007 and 2012, was not aware of a deal to pay Qatari investors a higher rate than others during capital raisings undertaken by Barclays during the financial crisis.
  • The defendants, former CEO John Varley, and fellow executives Richard Boath, Tom Kalaris, and Roger Jenkins, have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Former Barclays chairman Marcus Agius was unaware of the existence of a deal with Qatari investors at the heart of a historic fraud trial, a London court heard Wednesday.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges that former Barclays CEO John Varley and other executives – Richard Boath, Thomas Kalaris, and Roger Jenkins – misled investors during the financial crisis in raising funds via financial instruments called “Advisory Service Agreements” (ASAs).

The SFO alleges that the deals paid Qatari companies £322 million ($US423 million) – a 3.25% commission – in secret fees during capital raisings that were not properly disclosed to other investors. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Read more: See all our coverage of the Barclays Qatar trial here.

When shown a copy of one so-called ASA, worth £280 million, Agius – who was Barclays’ chairman between 2007 and 2012 – said he was unaware of its existence.

Asked by SFO prosecutor Ed Brown if he had seen it before, he responded: “Absolutely not, I saw the document for the first time some years after,” Agius said. He then clarified: “Not only did I not see the document but I wasn’t aware of its existence.”

The former chairman added that he did not see the document until 2012. Agius said he was also unaware of how the deals were negotiated or how the fees were arrived at.

Discussions around the £7.3 billion in financing raised by Barclays from Qatari investors in October 2008 centred on the “relatively high” fees the bank paid for the underwriting, Agius told the court.

Barclays paid 2% for the Reserve Capital Instruments (RCIs) and 4% for the Mandatorily Convertible Notes (MCNs), which caused some disquiet amongst Barclays shareholders at the time.

Agius added that the usual fees for such underwriting would usually amount to between 1.5 and 2%. However, he suggested the higher fees for the capital raising deals, previously described as “exotic instruments” by Agius, were acceptable given the “extraordinary nature of the financing,” the court heard.

The trial at Southwark Crown Court continues and is expected to last six months.

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