By Adriano Marchese and Kristin Broughton
Three former executives of Barclays PLC were acquitted of fraud charges on Friday, in the U.K.'s first trial of bank executives for misconduct during the financial crisis.
The U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office said Roger Jenkins, Richard Boath and Thomas Kalaris were acquitted by a jury after a five-month trial of charges of conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to allegedly misleading markets and investors over capital-raising agreements with Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd. worth $15 billion in June and October of 2008.
The decision marks another defeat for the SFO after cases against both the bank and the former CEO John Varley were previously dismissed.
"This has taken an enormous toll on me both economically and personally, and I look forward now to rebuilding my life," Mr. Jenkins, a former senior investment-banking executive, said in a statement.
A lawyer representing Mr. Boath, former head of the bank's European financial institutions group, criticized the SFO's handling of the case and called for an independent review of the agency. "The SFO has just wasted many millions on an utterly vacuous prosecution," said Michael O'Kane, senior partner and head of business crime at Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP.
The SFO declined to comment on Mr. O'Kane's remarks but said in a statement: "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 interests tests are met, we will always endeavor to bring this before a court."
A lawyer representing Mr. Kalaris, previously head of the bank's wealth unit, declined to comment.
In the summer of 2017, the SFO charged Barclays, accusing it of lending $3 billion to Qatar to effectively fund its own bailout. The SFO also investigated hundreds of millions of dollars worth of advisory services the bank paid to Qatari investors. Barclays had previously denied that the loan was for the purpose of buying its own shares and maintained that the advisory-services payments were for legitimate business purposes.
The Qatari equity injection allowed Barclays to avoid a state-backed rescue, which wasn't the case for its peers, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Lloyds Banking Group PLC.
In May 2018, the Crown Court dismissed the charges against Barclays, which included conspiracy with former executives to commit fraud and provide "unlawful financial assistance." The case against Mr. Varley was dismissed last year.
The SFO, the U.K's primary investigator and prosecutor of major business crimes, has faced difficulty in prosecuting individuals in a number of recent cases.
The founder and two former employees of Güralp Systems Ltd. in December were acquitted of bribery charges, following a settlement the seismic device company struck with the SFO over the alleged bribery of a Korean public official.
Former employees of British grocery chain Tesco PLC and metalworking technology company Sarclad Ltd. were also acquitted following prosecution by the agency over allegations of bribery.
-- Dylan Tokar contributed to this article.
Write to Adriano Marchese at email@example.com and Kristin Broughton at firstname.lastname@example.org