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Britain charges Barclays, ex-bosses over 'unlawful' Qatari deal

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Kirstin Ridley and Lawrence White

(Reuters) - and four former top executives have been criminally charged over undisclosed payments to Qatari investors during a 12 billion pound ($15 billion) emergency fundraising in 2008.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday it was charging with conspiracy to commit fraud and unlawful financial assistance, making it the first bank to face criminal over actions taken during the financial crisis.

said it was considering its position and awaiting further information about the charges, which follow a five-year SFO inquiry into how it avoided the fate of Lloyds and RBS by staving off a state bailout.

The SFO also charged former top executives John Varley, Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath after investigating a two-part fundraising that included a $3 billion loan to the wealthy Gulf state.

A lawyer for Jenkins said he would "vigorously defend" himself against the charges, adding his client had received both internal and external legal advice at the time.

A spokesman for Boath declined to comment. A lawyer representing Varley declined to comment and a lawyer for Kalaris could not immediately be reached for comment.

The men are the most senior bankers to be charged in for alleged crimes during the financial crisis and face jail sentences of up to 10 years if found guilty.

Barclays, the first bank to be prosecuted since David Green took over as head of the SFO in 2012, could be fined.

There was no allegation of wrongdoing against Qatar, which is a major investor in


Varley, the bank's former Chief Executive, Jenkins, a former tax advisory boss, Kalaris, the ex CEO of Barclays' wealth division and Boath, former European head of financial institutions, have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation during a June 2008 capital raising.

Varley and Jenkins have also been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to the second capital raising in October 2008 and Varley and Jenkins face another charge of unlawful financial assistance, the SFO said.

The SFO's investigation centred on commercial agreements between and Qatari investors during two emergency fund raisings in June and October at the height of the credit crisis.

Holding, part of the Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund, and Challenger, an investment vehicle of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, invested around 5.3 billion pounds in

Authorities have examined whether payments from to at the same time, such as around 322 million pounds in "advisory services agreements" (ASA), alongside a multi-billion dollar loan, were honest and properly disclosed.

Qatar, meanwhile, has made a healthy profit from its investment and remains Barclays' biggest shareholder, with a stake of around six percent, according to Thomson data. The Gulf state has not been accused of wrongdoing.

shares were trading 0.7 percent lower at 205.45 pence by 0745 GMT, against a flat STOXX European bank index.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley and Lawrence White, additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Tom Finn in Qatar, editing by Susan Fenton and Alexander Smith)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)