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Barclays said to plan guilty plea over Qatar disclosures

Saturday, June 17, 2017 - 09:34

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Barclays Plc plans to plead guilty to UK charges that it failed to make proper disclosures about a multi-billion-pound capital raising from Qatar during the financial crisis, according to a person with knowledge of the process.

[LONDON] Barclays Plc plans to plead guilty to UK charges that it failed to make proper disclosures about a multi-billion-pound capital raising from Qatar during the financial crisis, according to a person with knowledge of the process.

The bank is braced for a fine, which would likely range from £100 million (S$175.8 million) to £200 million, said the person, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation. The fine will be set by a judge under sentencing guidelines. The charge will be leveled against the bank's holding company, the person said.

The Serious Fraud Office, which has been investigating the case for five years, is expected to announce its decision on charges against the bank and several former executives involved in the Qatari deals in the coming days. The British lender isn't expecting any other charges beyond the disclosure failures, the person said.

The case stems from £322 million in fees Barclays paid Qatari investors for a loan as part of a wider £12 billion-pound during the 2008 financial crisis to avoid a state bailout. A lack of transparency about the purpose of the side deals led prosecutors to look at whether the payments were legal.

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The case is one of the most high-profile on the SFO's roster and has been closely watched by the finance industry. English laws make it difficult for prosecutors to charge big companies because they must be able to show that someone senior enough - the so-called "directing mind" - at the firm was involved in the alleged behavior.

At least eight former senior officials at the bank have been treated as potential suspects in the investigation including former Chief Executive Officer John Varley, ex-Chief Financial Officer Chris Lucas and former chairman of investment banking for the Middle East Roger Jenkins.

A spokesman at London-based Barclays declined to comment.

"We're expecting to announce charging decisions within a few days and we wouldn't make any comment ahead of that," a spokeswoman for the SFO said.  The Qatar deals are also being reviewed by the Financial Conduct Authority, which re-opened its probe earlier this year after more documents came to light.

The case is one of a number of lingering investigations over the bank's behavior dating back nearly a decade. Since the financial crisis, Barclays has faced probes ranging from the rigging of key benchmark rates to more recent scandals related to how executives dealt with whistle-blowers.

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