Barclays has successfully challenged charges brought against it over a deal with Qatari investors which helped prevent it needing a bailout from taxpayers during the 2008 financial crisis.
The Serious Fraud Office brought the charges against the bank and former senior executives, including ex-boss John Varley last year, claiming they loaned $3billion (£2.4billion) to the Qatari state, which was then used to buy Barclays shares.
But today Southwark Crown Court in London dismissed the charges against the bank – but not against the individuals – in a major setback for the SFO, which had been investigating the issue for five years.
Barclays said all charges against it have been dismissed
Barclays also said the court had dismissed charges against Barclays of conspiring with former executives to commit fraud by false representations over two agreements with Qatar.
Barclays shares were trading 0.7 per cent higher at 209p.
The bank said in a stock market announcement: ‘Barclays announces that the Crown Court has today dismissed all charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office against Barclays PLC and Barclays Bank PLC regarding matters which arose in the context of Barclays’ capital raisings in 2008.’
However, Barclays warned that the SFO is likely to seek to reinstate the charges by applying to a High Court judge to recommence proceedings via a new indictment of the same charges.
Raising private money to get it through the financial crisis meant that Barclays, unlike rivals Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, was able to avoid needing a bailout.
Accepting state help would have given ministers a say over its casino banking operation and multi-million-pound bonus schemes.
Qatari investors – the state-backed Qatar Holding and Challenger Universal – pumped £6.1billion into Barclays during two fundraisings in June and October 2008.
In November that year, Barclays agreed to issue a $3billion (£2.4billion) loan made available to the State of Qatar.
The bank, Mr Varley, Mr Jenkins, and their two former colleagues, Mr Kalaris and Mr Boath, were all charged with conspiracy to commit fraud over the June 2008 fundraising.
The bank, Mr Varley and Mr Jenkins faced the same charge relating to the second fundraising in October 2008, while they were been charged with providing unlawful financial assistance.
The individuals are still facing charges as Monday’s dismissal relates only to Barclays as a corporate entity.
Andrew Katzen, partner at Hickman and Rose, said: ‘The SFO’s most high profile corruption prosecution has fallen at the first hurdle, but Barclays isn’t off the hook yet.
‘The SFO is almost certain to seek to continue the prosecution by applying to the High Court to issue what is called a voluntary bill of indictment. Meanwhile a separate but related prosecution of Barclays plc is still ongoing.
‘Nevertheless, the ruling makes for an inauspicious start for the prosecutor as it awaits its new director.’