A senior Barclays banker had sleepless nights worrying that journalists would discover that the British bank had paid a multimillion-pound “bung” to the prime minister of Qatar, a court heard.
Richard Boath, an executive in Barclays’ investment banking division, told a senior lawyer at the bank that he would “start to tremble” when he reread documents relating to an alleged “dodgy” deal Barclays executives struck with Qatari investors, according to a transcript read to the jury during the fourth day of the fraud trial at London’s Southwark crown court on Monday.
Boath and three other former Barclays executives, including the then chief executive, John Varley, are accused of conspiring to secretly pay Qatar £322m, in return for billions of pounds of investment in the bank, thereby allowing it to avoid a government bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.
The court heard transcripts of a phone call between the bankers in which one said: “John [Varley] is scared to death that the government turn up tomorrow morning.”
Roger Jenkins, a former head of Barclays Capital, was worried about what might happen to his pay if the bank had to be rescued by the government, according to a phone call played to the jury. The prosecution told the jury that Jenkins was paid £39.5m the previous year.
In a phone call, Jenkins is alleged to have told Boath: “Fucking stop messing around you stupid people … We want their money, so take the fucking risk. Just put it in the prospectus, let’s just move on for fuck’s sake.”
After agreeing the investment deal with Qatar, Boath told Barclay’s lawyer Judith Shepherd: “My worry is every journalist just gets it and says: ‘This is’, you know…”
Shepherd asked him to explain his concern and according to the transcript, Boath said: “It begins with B.”
Ed Brown QC, prosecuting on behalf of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), told the jury that Boath later said: “The B was probably bung.”
The court heard that Boath had asked Shepherd if it was possible to “redo” the five-paragraph agreement, which included a handwritten note promising to pay Qatar £42m, because “it just doesn’t look very elegant”.
He is said to have told Shepherd that when he rereads the agreement: “I sort to start to tremble. So, you know, I’d really like to go and do something about it, so I can sleep.”
The court heard on Friday that Shepherd had warned Boath that if he could not show what genuine services the then Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, had provided the bank, “you are going to end up in front of the Fraud Squad explaining why”. Boath is said to have replied: “No, I’ve got a house in Brazil. There’s no extradition treaty. I’m off.”
The SFO alleges that four former Barclays executives – Varley, Boath, Jenkins and Tom Kalaris, who headed the bank’s wealth team – lied to the stock market and other investors about the fees the bank paid Qatar in relation to emergency fundraising of more than £11bn.
All of the men deny the charges. Sheikh Hamad and Qatar are not accused of wrongdoing.
The trial continues.