Serious Fraud Office chief steps back from Barclays case over conflicts

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Serious Fraud Office boss steps away from Barclays case because of potential conflicts (Source: Getty)

The new director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) Lisa Osofsky has recused herself from the prosecution of four former Barclays bankers over potential conflicts of interest.

The fraud office said she had delegated responsibility for the case to the SFO’s general counsel Alun Milford to “avoid any potential conflict” thrown up by previous private sector work.

Osofsky joined the fraud office at the end of August from US risk and compliance firm Exiger where she was Europe, Middle East and Africa head.

Milford, who was hotly tipped for the job of director, is set to leave the SFO in December to join law firm Kingsley Napley after losing out on the top job to Osofsky

An SFO spokesperson said: “Both movement between public and private sectors, and potential conflicts of interest more generally, are not unknown in the legal profession – law enforcement agencies, law firms and barristers' chambers have long-established measures in place to identify and take action to avoid such potential conflicts.”

On Friday the High Court ruled that the SFO was unable to reinstate charges against Barclays over a loan it made to Qatar at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

The ruling will be seen as a blow to the SFO and means Barclays will now face no regulatory sanctions over its 2008 fund raising.

The bank had denied that a $3bn (£2.34bn) loan it made a decade ago to Qatar had any connection with a Qatari investment that helped it avoid a government bail out similar to that of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is still majority-owned by the UK taxpayer.

Firms that are publicly listed in the UK are usually not allowed to lend money for a third-party to purchase their shares, and the SFO had claimed that Barclays had made such an arrangement, committing fraud over two "advisory services agreements" between it and the state of Qatar.

The SFO had applied to the High Court to reinstate all charges in late July after its charges were dismissed in the Crown Court.

"The SFO believes it was right to bring this to the attention of the High Court," a spokesperson said on Friday.

Meanwhile, the trial of four Barclays bankers relating to the capital raising is still set to go ahead on 9 January 2019.

The four face a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation when they allegedly reached a deal for Qatar's capital injection into the bank in June 2008.

Former chief executive John Varley will stand trial alongside then-senior executives Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath.

Varley and Jenkins were given a second charge of conspiracy to commit fraud connected to another capital raising in October 2008.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Kingsley Napley declined to comment.

 

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