Asia-Pacific News

Barclays Faces Fresh Criminal Probe

Caroline Binham and Patrick Jenkins

The Serious Fraud Office has launched a second criminal investigation into Barclays as the agency examines payments the bank made as part of its 2008 Middle Eastern capital raising.

Barclay's Bank

The bank said on Wednesday evening that the UK’s main prosecutor of corruption had opened a formal criminal probe into the issue.

“Barclays confirms that the Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation into payments under certain commercial agreements between Barclays and Qatar Holding LLC,” it said in a short statement.

One person familiar with the investigation said: “The probe has begun. Documents have been requested.”

The development is another blow for the bank, which is still reeling from the impact of a transatlantic regulatory probe into its attempted manipulation of Libor interbank borrowing rates. That affair led to a £290m fine in June and the resignation of the bank’s chairman, Marcus Agius, and chief executive, Bob Diamond.

Barclays revealed that Sir David Walker would become its new chairman three weeks ago, though the bank is still without a chief executive.

People close to the chief executive selection process say a successor to Mr. Diamond should be identified within the next month, though the favored choice of many shareholders – Bill Winters, the former JPMorgan number two – recently withdrew from the process. That has left Antony Jenkins, Barclays’ head of retail banking, as the most likely choice, according to bankers and analysts.

Within weeks of the resignation of Mr. Diamond and Mr. Agius, the bank announced another blow, revealing that the Financial Services Authority had begun an investigation into Chris Lucas, its finance director, and three other current and former employees.

The FSA’s case – now being taken up by the SFO – centers on whether Barclays adequately disclosed fees it paid to the QIA. The criminal probe is focused on the bank, not on individuals. The SFO and the FSA declined to comment.

A criminal probe into the Qatari deal adds to Barclays’ SFO woes after the agency said last month that it would begin an investigation into attempted manipulation of Libor and other benchmark lending rates.

Barclays settled its civil case over the Libor affair with the FSA and US authorities in June. The FSA has been asked to second staff to the cash-strapped SFO to assist with the criminal investigation.