Roger Jenkins, Richard Boath and Thomas Kalaris have been acquitted of fraud in the UK’s first trial of bank executives for misconduct during the 2008 financial crisis. The three men were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to allegedly misleading investors and the markets over capital raising arrangements agreed with Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd in June and October 2008.
A statement issued by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) reads: “Our prosecution decisions are always based on the evidence that is available, and we are determined to bring the perpetrators of serious financial crime to justice. Wherever our evidential and public interest tests are met, we will always endeavour to bring this before a court.”
The statement continues: “Charges against Barclays plc and Barclays Bank plc in relation to the 2008 capital raisings were dismissed by the Crown Court in May 2018. The High Court rejected the SFO’s application to re-instate them in October later that year and also refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. John Varley, former CEO of Barclays, was also charged in relation to these activities. The case against him was dismissed in April 2019.”
In addition, the SFO comments: “Chris Lucas, the chief finance officer of Barclays at the time of this conduct, was named as a co-conspirator on the indictment against these individuals. But for ill-health, he would have been charged and tried.”
Legal community responds
Responding to the news, Aziz Rahman (senior partner at corporate crime legal specialists Rahman Ravelli) said: “This is another high-profile defeat for the SFO. It’s a crushing loss that should be seen by the SFO as a painful lesson that it needs to heed. Barclays itself has already been acquitted. The SFO did all it could to shoehorn these charges into court and, as a result, it has been left with egg on its face. The fact that it had to go to such lengths to ensure this case came to court should have been a clear warning to it about the case’s lack of strength.”
Rahman added: “While it’s too early to say, there is the possibility that this could reshape the SFO’s thinking when it comes to dealing with individuals after the company has already been dealt with. In this case, the SFO has been dogged in its pursuit of individuals and that pursuit has ended in failure. Unfortunately for the SFO, this seems to be a routine that’s being played out with monotonous regularity.”
Bambos Tsiattalou, specialist financial crime lawyer and founding partner of Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, observed: “This is a huge blow to the SFO and its reputation. Today’s decision brings into question the effectiveness of the department. It will now be essential to conduct a thorough review of procedures within the SFO, with this being the organisation’s most high profile failure to date. The judgement of key decision-makers within the department must surely be brought into question.”