LONDON (Reuters) – Three former Barclays (BARC.L) executives were acquitted in London on Friday of charges they helped funnel 322 million pounds ($418 million) in secret fees to Qatar during the credit crisis, in return for rescue funding.
In a blow to the UK’s taxpayer-funded Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which prosecuted the case, a jury cleared Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris, and Richard Boath of fraud.
The men, aged between 61 and 64, all denied any wrongdoing. Qatar, which is still a significant Barclays shareholder, was neither investigated nor accused of wrongdoing.
The verdict draws a line under an ambitious, seven-and-a-half year inquiry that led to the first criminal charges in Britain against senior financiers at a major bank over conduct during the credit crisis.
It also marks the likely end of efforts by prosecutors to hold top bankers to account for decisions taken when the global financial system was brought to its knees, forcing taxpayers into bank bailouts totaling hundreds of billions of pounds.
The SFO filed charges a month after the ruling Conservative Party pledged to abolish the investigator and prosecutor and roll it into a national crime-fighting force in 2017.
Standing outside London’s Old Bailey in the pouring rain, Boath called the SFO’s case a “complete invention” and pointed out that a regulatory investigation had exonerated him a year ago. Asked what he would do now, he said: “I’m going for lunch.”
“Our prosecution decisions are always based on the evidence that is available, and we are determined to bring perpetrators of serious financial crime to justice. Wherever our evidential and public interest tests are met, we will always endeavor to bring this before a court,” the SFO said after the verdict.