Ex-Barclays Chair Said Qatar Fee Agreement Was a ‘Deception’

Former Barclays Plc Chairman Marcus Agius said he was shocked to discover an agreement to pay Qatar 280 million pounds ($351 million) in fees from share sales in exchange for a bailout at the height of the financial crisis.

When the former executive testified before a jury at a criminal trial last year, he said that he hadn’t been informed about the fees paid to the gas-rich state until years later. But during the questioning of ex-CEO John Varley, PCP Capital Partners’ revealed Tuesday that Agius had also told prosecutors that the agreement was “outrageous” and shouldn’t have been struck without the board’s input.

“My reaction when I saw it was one of profound shock and, on mature reaction, anger as well, because it appears to me that the document is a deception,” Agius said in a statement for the criminal proceedings. “Things were done that should not have been done, or that should not have been done without reference to the board.”

Agius’s comments were read out to Varley on the third day of his testimony at a separate 1.6 billion-pound London trial against the bank. Financier Amanda Staveley claims Barclays cheated her out of profits she should have earned by bringing investors into deals that helped save the lender during the crash.

Barclays declined to comment and Agius didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. His statement were disclosed in a transcript of Tuesday’s hearing.

The effort to raise funds has haunted the bank, and Varley, ever since. He was charged by British prosecutors over the issue in 2017, before the allegations were thrown out by judges two years later in the wake of a brief trial. Barclays, meanwhile, has always insisted that the side agreements with the Qataris were genuine and gave the lender greater access to deals in the Middle East.

In total, Barclays raised 11.2 billion pounds in two 2008 fundraising rounds -- in June and October -- allowing it to dodge the bailout terms the British government imposed on other lenders.

Agius was aware “of the concept” of a further agreement in October, Varley said Tuesday. The fees to the Qataris, he said, were “a favor investment in a relationship that was bearing fruit.”

When questioned by the judge whether Agius knew of the agreement specifying the fees, Varley said he didn’t know. “It was my habit to discuss matters with him,” he added.

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