LONDON: Britain's Serious Fraud Office said on Monday (Feb 12) that it has charged Barclays Bank over the lender's emergency fundraising from Qatar during the financial crisis a decade ago.
Barclays Bank's parent company, Barclays PLC, and four former top executives were already charged over the same alleged offence last June, but the SFO has now decided to extend the charges.
It is the first time that a British bank is facing a criminal trial over its conduct during the notorious 2008 global financial crisis.
On Monday, the SFO revealed that it had also charged the lender's Barclays Bank PLC division with fraud, over the US$3.0-billion (€2.4-billion) loan given by the bank to Qatar ten years ago in return for financial aid the other way.
"The Serious Fraud Office has today charged Barclays Bank PLC with unlawful financial assistance," the SFO said in a statement.
"The charges relate to financial assistance Barclays Bank gave to Qatar Holding between October 1 and November 30 2008, which was in the form of a US$3.0-billion loan for the purpose of directly or indirectly acquiring shares in Barclays PLC."
The charges concern emergency funding secured from Qatari investors in 2008 as the global banking sector went into meltdown.
In order to avoid asking the UK government for a taxpayer bailout, Barclays raised nearly £12 billion (US$16.6 billion) from investors in the Middle East, including the Qatari state sovereign wealth fund, to help it weather the storm.
In turn, Barclays loaned US$3.0 billion to the State of Qatar.
By contrast, rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds had to have billions of pounds of British taxpayers' money pumped into them.
The SFO investigation arose amid concerns that Barclays may have been effectively lending itself money, known as "financial assistance", which is illegal.
The bank said it would fight the charges brought against both Barclays PLC and Barclays Bank PLC. And it did not expect the charges to have any impact on customers or clients.
The case against Barclays PLC and the four former executives - ex-CEO John Varley and Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris, and Richard Boath - is scheduled to go to court in 2019.
Investors shrugged off the news on Monday.
"Although a potential worry, the news was no great surprise for investors," noted Ian Forrest, analyst at The Share Centre.
"That was reflected by the fact that the market took the news in its stride ... in early trading, in line with the generally positive market mood."
Barclays' share price was up almost 0.7 per cent at 194.18 pence in afternoon deals on London's FTSE 100 index, which was 1.2 per cent higher at 7,177.77 points.