The judge overseeing a historic case against former Barclays bosses has instructed the jury not to dwell on “soundbites” in which defendants joked about food and sex in prison, adding that the prosecutor’s allegations implicate individuals connected to the bank’s Qatari investors.
In what is considered a rare move so early in a trial, Mr Justice Robert Jay addressed the jury in Southwark crown court on Thursday. It came after the prosecution concluded its opening statement, which lasted six days, outlining its case over the bank’s 2008 cash call.
Jay told the jury: “It’s important in this case not to dwell over much of the soundbites,” referring to excerpts heard earlier in the trial in which bankers talked about the quality of the food and the sex in prison, as well as emails regarding multimillion-pound bonuses they were meant to be paid after the deal was completed.
The jury heard last week that defendant Tom Kalaris, the former head of Barclays’ wealth division, said in a 2008 phone call that “none of us wants to go to jail” over the deal, adding that the “food sucks and the sex is worse”.
Justice Jay went on to say: “Absolutely central to the SFO’s case is that both the advisory service agreements … were instruments of fraud.” He said prosecutors were alleging that the agreements were “sham agreements, because there was no intention to provide genuine services”.
The SFO alleges that the former Barclays bosses lied to the stock market and other investors about how fees were paid to Qatar in relation to emergency fundraising of more than £11bn.
Prosecutors say £322m in fees were presented as two advisory services agreements in order to disguise Qatar’s demand for larger commission payments. They claim the payments were in exchange for the investments in 2008 that helped Barclays avoid a government bailout at the height of the financial crisis.
Jay’s instructions to the jury also drew Qatar into the fold. He said the advisory service agreements were a contract involving two parties, which in this case involved Qatari entities.
He said the logic of the prosecution’s case was that the defendants were dishonest and it would follow that one or more individuals connected with the Qatari entities would be “equally dishonest”. “There is no getting around that,” the judge said.
He added: “I am not to be understood as expressing any view as to whether the SFO is right one way or the other. All I am doing is pointing out where the logic of the SFO’s case leads, on the hypothesis that it is right.”
Prosecutors have not accused Qatar of wrongdoing.
Kalaris, Barclays’ former chief executive John Varley, the ex-investment banking chief Roger Jenkins, and the ex-European financial institutions head Richard Boath, have all denied the SFO’s charges.
The trial, which is expected to last up to six months, continues.