Barclays Qatar SFO Charging Deadline Delayed to May

  • Prosecutor sent letters to targets in last week with deadline
  • SFO had told U.K. court it would make decision by end of March

Charging decisions over Barclays Plc’s 2008 emergency fundraising from Qatar may not come before May after the U.K. Serious Fraud Office wrote to targets extending the deadline, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The SFO sent letters to several former Barclays executives in the last week informing them it will make a decision on whether to file charges by the end of May, according to the people, who didn’t want to be identified because the letters are private. The SFO previously told a London court it would make a decision by the end of March.

The five-year-old investigation is into two "advisory services agreements" worth 322 million pounds ($401 million) that Barclays committed to pay the Qatar Investment Authority during the 2008 financial crisis. The pacts came around the same time the sovereign wealth fund joined a two-stage 12 billion-pound fundraising to help the bank avoid a state bailout, raising concerns about the services agreements. There are also questions around whether the bank loaned $3 billion to Qatar to help fund the share purchase.

At least eight former executives have been interviewed under caution by the SFO in the probe 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. Interviews under caution are generally conducted with possible suspects and anything said can be used in court.

A spokeswoman for the SFO declined to comment, as did lawyers for the men.

The Financial Conduct Authority reopened its probe into the fundraising, it emerged last week, despite already issuing the bank with a 50 million-pound fine in 2013. The FCA called in a number of people for interviews in recent weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The bank has said repeatedly it will contest the existing penalty but the challenge was put on hold pending the outcome of the SFO’s criminal probe.

Several suspects have contacted the SFO in recent months outlining why they shouldn’t be charged, people with knowledge of the case said previously. One key question is whether Barclays as a corporate entity will be prosecuted and, if so, whether it would be offered a so-called deferred prosecution agreement. A DPA allows a company to avoid prosecution by taking actions such as paying a fine and assisting in the prosecution of individuals.

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