Barclays Executive’s Lawyer Likens Prosecutor to Titanic Captain

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(Bloomberg) --

The case against former Barclays Plc executives resembles the Titanic, with prosecutors ignoring the “iceberg” of exonerating evidence in its way, a lawyer for one of the defendants told a London jury as a high-profile fraud trial approaches its end.

A witness statement from the bank’s ex-Chairman Marcus Agius fundamentally undermined the Serious Fraud Office’s case that executive Roger Jenkins tried to fool investors with a side agreement with Qatar, said John Kelsey-Fry, a lawyer for the former Barclays’ former Middle East investment banking head.

The SFO alleges that two so-called Advisory Services Agreements between the bank and Qatar were simply a way to pay the Gulf nation 322 million pounds ($416 million) in extra fees in return for a 4 billion pound investment in Barclays at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. The SFO says Jenkins and co-workers Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath conspired to hide the fees to prevent other investors knowing that the Qataris were getting a higher investment commission than them.

Kalaris, who ran the wealth management division, Boath, who headed the bank’s financial institutions group in Europe, and Jenkins deny the allegations.

The trial, which began in October, is nearing its conclusion, with only closing arguments from lawyers for the defendants and the judge’s summary of the case remaining. The fraud charges carry a maximum 10 year sentence.

Their lawyers acknowledge that the ASAs were linked to the cash injections, but say that they made sense in their own right.

Barclays was trying to develop a deeper relationship with a nation that was becoming enormously wealthy as it ramped up production of natural gas, and the ASAs, they say, represented a genuine partnership.

On Friday, during the second day of his closing argument, Kelsey-Fry told the jury that the prosecution had completely ignored Agius’s witness statement. The former chairman described Barclays’s hope of achieving “favored nation status,” meaning that it would become Qatar’s provider for all banking services. That phrase backed up Jenkins, who said in 2008 that he aimed to become Qatar’s “preferred provider,” a term which describes the exact same concept as the one Agius refers to, Kelsey-Fry said.

The statement from Agius “blows this prosecution case out of the water and they know it and they can do nothing about it,” Kelsey-Fry said. It would be like an announcement over the loud speaker “from the captain of the Titanic: ‘You may have noticed ahead of us now in our direct path is a colossal iceberg, but don’t worry nothing will throw me from my path. We will keep steaming straight ahead.’”

Kelsey-Fry said that the prosecution hadn’t given any proof that Barclays didn’t generate business from the ASAs, something which may have supported the notion that they were fake.

“Have you seen the bottom line?” Kelsey-Fry said, removing his reading glasses and locking the jury in his gaze. “Have you seen it? It might be $2 billion during this ASA. And we don’t know. I bet you would know something else though. If Barclays didn’t make any money I bet you’d know that.”

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