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Judge tells jury not to 'dwell on soundbites' about 'the food and the sex' in Barclay trial

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
In the dock: Former chief executive of Barclays John Varley leaves Southwark Crown Court on January 14, 2019 in London, England. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The jury in a landmark criminal trial of former Barclays (BARC.L) executives has been told not to base their decision on recordings of the defendants discussing the possibility of going to jail and talk of big bonuses.

Justice Jay told the jury at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday: “It’s important in this case not to dwell over the soundbites — the talk about the food and the sex… the talk of bonuses.”

Earlier in the trial, the jury had been played a recording of two of the defendants saying they didn’t want to go to jail because “the food sucks and the sex is worse.” The jury was also presented with an email from another defendant in which he demanded a large bonus for his role in the 2008 fundraising that “save[d] our arses.” The defendant eventually received a special payment of £25m, the court was told.

Four former Barclays bankers are facing criminal charges related to a multibillion pound investment in the bank made by Qatar at the height of the financial crisis that helped Barclays avoid a state bailout.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is prosecuting the case, claims executives misled the stock market by not fully disclosing fees paid to Qatar in exchange for the investment. It claims these fees were covered up by “sham” advisory service agreements (ASAs) stuck on the side.

The defendants in the case are: John Varley, who was CEO of Barclays between 2004 and 2011; Roger Jenkins, who ran Barclays Capital’s investment management business in the Middle East and North Africa; Thomas Kalaris, the former CEO of Barclays’ wealth and investment management; and Richard Boath, the former head of the European financial institutions group at Barclays Capital.

Varley and Jenkins each face two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, and Kalaris and Boath each face one. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty. Qatar has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Justice Jay’s comments about disregarding “soundbites” came after the SFO’s lead lawyer, Edward Brown QC, completed his opening statement on Wednesday.

The judge told the jury on Wednesday that in order to reach any conclusions on the charges they must be satisfied that:

  • The advisory agreements were sham mechanisms for paying the Qatari’s hidden commissions;
  • That the accused all knew the agreements were shams;
  • That the defendants were dishonest;
  • And that they all entered into a conspiracy to mislead others on the true nature of the advisory agreements.

Justice Jay also told the jury that the “logic” of the SFO’s case implied that the Qataris would have been equally dishonest in entering into the advisory agreements, if indeed the jury does conclude they are shams.

“There’s no getting around that,” the judge said.

No Qatari representatives are facing any charges from the SFO.

The case continues and is expected to last up to six months.

Read more on the trial of the Barclays four: